Alert in Aysen over salmon farming expansion

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By Patricio Segura
 
Concern is building in the Aysen region, and particularly in the town of Caleta Tortel, by what appears to be a new offensive from the salmon industry to expand its concessions in this region's pristine Patagonian fjords and channels. After the last session of the Regional Commission for the Use of the Seaboard (CRUBC) on April 30, where the discussion on the possible relocation of aquaculture concessions in the Aysen coast began, concern was raised anew over the environmental and social impact the industry has already had where it has operated.
 
Last week, the executive director of the environmental group Oceana, Alex Muñoz, presented in Coyhaique the documentary "The secret of Caleta Tortel," which details the risks of the salmon farms setting up near the town at the mouth of the Baker River. He called on the government to "deliver no more salmon concessions in places that are as pristine as Tortel." Said Munoz in an interview with the Aysen newspaper El Divisadero: "It is absolutely certain that these concessions only pollute the fjords and when there is a health crisis, companies will go and leave everything behind as they did with the ISA virus in 2008."
 
The head of Oceana Chile was quickly joined by Caleta Tortel mayor Bernardo Lopez, who told Radio Santa Maria that although they did not participate in the most recent session of the CRUBC, he said he will attend future meetings to make his case. This body is charged with the approval or rejection of the proposal to open more areas for the aquaculture industry, which would include relocations as there is a moratorium on the delivery of new concessions until 2020.
 
In this regard, the mayor said that after the health problems of the salmon industry up to now in the Los Lagos and Aysen regions the salmon companies are "looking to settle in the area of ​​Tortel, which is the only municipality of the Patagonian fjords and channels where the salmon industry is not yet present. It seems they do not want to leave anything pristine in our territory, they want to leave their damage everywhere."
 
The mayor added: "All I know from the media is that there are very serious problems with the ISA virus, as such there is tremendous unemployment on the big island of Chiloe which was once booming in salmon producton. And now there are very critical social problems throughout Chiloe and health problems on its coastline. We do not want that for our town. Do not forget that these are the Patagonian fjords and channels that are the richest in ecological biodiversity."
 
In Aysén there are currently 714 salmon aquaculture concessions in 37 districts, which already represents about 53 percent of the entire country. In 2015, a quarter of them are right now operational, but many farms are being forced to relocate due to sanitary measures. Today, there are 527 requests for such relocations and 120 have already been approved. 
 

El Secreto de Caleta Tortel from OceanaChile