Chilean authorities estimate USD 300 million in annual illegal seafood sales

Published on
April 6, 2018

Sernapesca, Chile’s national fishery and aquaculture service, has estimated that transactions involving illegally sourced fish and seafood amount to around USD 300 million (EUR 245 million) each year inside the South American country.

Sernapesca estimated it makes 200,000 site inspections and road stops in 2017, resulting in the confiscation of 2,238 tons of illegal marine resources. But Burgos said that represents just a small portion of the total of 320,000 tons of illegal resources the agency estimates are extracted each year. That total represents more than 60 percent more than the authorized quota for the primary targeted species, which include common hake, southern hake, sardines, anchovies, and kelp. But the biggest impact is on Chilean abalone – only 2.7 tons are legally harvested, whereas around 1,000 tons are extracted illegally every year, putting their future supply at risk.

In response, Sernapesca Director José Miguel Burgos told El Mercurio that Chilean authorities are pushing a bill that would allow more flexibility in punishment of the illegal extraction and sale of marine resources. This bill has been introduced, and would establish greater penalties for those who participate in the illicit trade, Burgos said.

Burgos said that this illicit activity is “tremendously damaging to fisherman who are legally fishing…as (the illegal products) can compete with a lower, unfair price.”

But Burgos said that Chilean authorities believe the biggest fault lies not with the harvesters, but rather the organizations responsible for bringing the illegal product to consumers.

Burgos also expressed concern that illegally harvested seafood is not kept in sanitary conditions, putting consumers at risk of foodborne illness. And he lamented the fact that the gray trade in seafood results in a loss of tax income for the state.

Photo courtesy of WWF

Reporting from Santiago, Chile

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