Proposed regulatory changes split Chilean salmon industry

Published on
August 20, 2018

A sudden change in regulations that would affect the density allowed in Chilean salmon farms has riled the industry.

Chilean Minister of Economy, Development and Tourism Josè Ramòn Valente confirmed the government’s plan to move forward with changes to rules on salmon-pen density limits at a meeting with representatives of 23 salmon farmers that operate in Chile’s salmon-producing regions. Valente confirmed that authorities want to set a fixed limit on the number of salmon that an occupy a pen, pointing to sanitary reasons to justify the regulatory change, according to Subpesca, Chile’s national fisheries authority.

“As the government, and through dialogue, we want to strengthen the salmon industry for all players, small, medium, and large producers. Our objective is to maintain internal competition, as well as a leadership position globally, to guarantee a sustainable industry, that generates new jobs and investment,” Valente said.

The statement confirmed that the government is looking to control “drastic increases” in salmon production. According to the vice secretary of fisheries and aquaculture, Eduardo Riquelme, the government has been working with more extensive measures to control the industry since 2010 and maintaining a “coherent” quantity of fish together in the production phase is a key measure. 

Chilean national daily La Tercera reported Subpesca delivered a technical report on 3 August that concluded current harvest projections are not optimal for the regulator and proposed reducing densities. 

Authorities previously wanted to implement the measure quickly and have to new restriction in effect for the January 2019 production cycle. However, Valente has conceded that there is not a consensus in the industry regarding the plan, and pushed back an earlier implementation deadline in order to study the ramifications of the proposal. Subpesca is now accepting comments on the measure from the industry through 27 August.

The industry is deeply divided on the measure, La Tercera reported. Industry association SalmonChile held a “heated” board meeting last week in Puerto Montt to analyze the government’s plan and that several Chilean salmon farming companies are upset that despite their previous compliance with regulatory changes, the government wants to impose further limits on their operations.  

Part of the divide is between companies that have opted for a voluntary reduction initiative called PRS, and those who have not subscribed. The latter group now faces a potential requirement of reducing the stocking density of new farming sites with four kilograms of salmon per square meter, down from the previous requirement of eight kilograms of fish per square meter. Companies that would be affected by the rule said they would be forced to adjust their business plan and that the changes could have a significant effect on the economic viability of their operations.

Photo courtesy of Subpesca

Reporting from Santiago, Chile

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