Magallanes Under Attack: the Salmon Farming Invasion of the Ultima Esperanza Province

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According to the registry of the Sub-Secretariat for Fishing (SUBPESCA), in September 2009, nearly 1000 applications for concessions for a “portion of water and depth” were presented in the Ultima Esperanza Province, whose capital is Puerto Natales in the Magallanes Region. 
 
This is the probable last try by the salmon industry to reach the production levels that they once registered in the Lakes and Aysen regions of southern Chile. Its now impossible to recover their prior production levels in these regions alone due to the environmental degradation that they themselves caused to the aquatic environment.  
 
However, its not possible to know for sure how many of the applications for concessions registered in SUBPESCA are approved and correspond to salmon production centers about to operate or already operating, given the results shown in an analysis of the salmon industry situation in two sectors of La Ultima Esperanza Province: Canal de las Montanas and Seno de Ultima Esperanza. 
 
Moreover, the absence of environmental impact studies or declarations in the Environmental Impact Evaluation System (SEIA) administered by the National Environmental Commission (CONAMA) means that we also can not visualize what is the real number  of salmon production projects that the salmon industry aims to operate not only in this province, but in the entire region. 
 
This worrisome situation has motivated Patagon Journal to prepare a series of articles,”Magallanes Under Attack,” in which we detail the magnitude that the salmon expansion could reach in the region and the possible effects this activity could have on the local tourism economy. 
 
In this first essay, we look at the two aforementioned sectors in relation to the administrative aspects related to intensive salmon farming. In particular, we look at the “spatial conflicts” between the concession applications, represented by overlaps and/or distance between the eventual centers -- and inferior to the demands of present environmental norms, according to the coordiinates of the polyglons that have been requested by salmon farming concessions. 
 
Later, we attempt to show in this study that the salmon expansion toward Magallanes is handled by the government in an unorganized and sloppy manner, which has been the case in general between public services and the salmon industry.  
 
1. – Spatial distribution of applications for portions of water and sea depth in the Canal de Las Montanas and Seno de Ultima Esperanza, Ultima Esperanza Province, Magallanes. 
 
According to the SUBPESCA registry, 28 applications for portions of water and sea depth have been presented by salmon farming companies in the Canal de Las Montanas. The applications appear in Table 1 (Cuadro 1). 
In the Map 1 it shows the spatial distribution of these 28 applications, represented by the vertex A of the circle of the concession sought and identified by the last four digits of their Membership Number (No. Pert.).
 
None of these applications have presented an environmental impact study or declaration to environmental authorities in Magallanes. 
 
In this occupation of the Canal de Las Montanas one sees the evident “spatial conflict” that exists between the various applications presented by the companies Friosur and Caleta Bay and registered by SUBPESCA. 
In Table 2 (Cuadro 2) it shows the applications overlapping each other or a lesser distance with respect to the production center closest to it, violating current regulations for aquaculture (1.5 nautical miles between concessions for intensive salmon farming) .
 
Map 2 shows two "conflicts of spatial overlap in four of the applications received by SUBPESCA, including salmon centers from the companies Caleta Bay (2106 and 2107) and Friosur (2122 and 2123).
 
There is no information as to which of the centers in obvious conflict has been declared unviable by the competent public services. The absence, as already noted, of the projects in the Environmental Impact Evaluation System adminstered by CONAMA casts doubt on the coordinates of these applications for aquaculture concessions registered with SUBPESCA.
 

 
This situation is repeated in the Paso Vattunoe sector of the Seno de Ultima Esperanza, located to the southeast of the Canal de Las Montanas. 
 
Map 3 shows two sites belonging to Acuimag that have been approved by the COREMA-Magallanes. Both resolutions were approved by COREMA-Magallanes in September 2008 (Acuimag-2009) and in November the same year (Acuimag-2008) [1].
 
Map 4 shows the overlap of these sites with those for the other portion of water applications for "salmon" that appear in the relevant list of SUBPESCA 2009. It would even overlap between "centers" of the same company (Acuimag).
 

 

 
 
That is, in the best case scenario, if ACUIMAG-2056 was an expansion of Acuimag-2009 and Acuimag 2059 was, in turn, an extension of Acuimag-2008, how do they explain, in the lists of SUBPESCA the presence of a request to grant a concession to the company Caleta Bay, overlapping with Acuimag-2059, also in the state of "applicant"?
 
It is essential to obtain from the competent public services the information to configure the real situation of the salmon industry in the Province of Ultima Esperanza. Also, at Taraba (located to the west of Canal de Las Mountanas) they would also repeat these duplication of requests for lots of water and sea depth for salmon farms, according to records of SUBPESCA 2009 and as shown in Map 5, where these applications are represented by the vertices A and are identified by the name of the company and the last 4 digits of their membership numbers.
 
Queries made by Oceana-Chile as to which of these applications, both in Taraba and in the Canal de Las Montanas, have presented technical projects for final processing of their applications, have received responses denying access to information by SERNAPESCA-Magallanes , which has based its decision on the idea that the information requested corresponds to ".. facts that affect the rights of third parties ..." [2].
 
The public services (especially SERNAPESCA) reduce everything to the questionable "rights" of the salmon industry, forgetting that the right to live in an environment free of pollution, is a law duly consecrated for all Chileans in the nation's constitution and that any Chilean, therefore, has a duty to protect the environment from threats such as those stemming from the industry that destroyed the coastline of the Lakes and Aysen regions.
 
Furthermore, both the Canal de Las Montanas and the sector Vattuone Paso, are areas in which prior designations as aquaculture areas suitable for aquaculture (AAA) were reversed in order to prevent the development of aquaculture activities incompatible with tourism, according to a citizen agreement involving the tourism organizations of the province and the salmon industry, and enshrined in a document issued by the Regional Government of Magellanes (GORE-Magallanes) in December 2008. The same multi-sector agreement included all of Seno Taraba, as well as various other areas [3].

[1] Ver www.seia.cl
[2] SERNAPESCA-Magallanes. RES. EX Nº 025 del 28 de Enero, 2010. Firmada por Patricio Oyarzún, Director regional.
[3] GORE-Magallanes, Diciembre 2008: “Propuesta de Desafectación y Afectación de AAA en la Provincia de Última Esperanza”. Punta Arenas, Diciembre 2008. 
 
Photo courtesy of Juan Jose Garrido