Chilean authorities move forward with bottom-trawling freeze

Chile is moving forward with plans to limit bottom-trawling in the country, despite warnings from one of the nation's largest unions that tens of thousands of jobs could be lost or affected by the decision.

Chilean authorities announced in January of this year that it would limit bottom-trawling in 98 percent of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The changes were set to take effect in September, and Chilean Fisheries and Aquaculture Undersecretary Eduardo Riquelme confirmed the authority’s decision in a 30 August statement.

“This is call to public opinion to remain calm,” Riquelme said. “Limiting the footprint of trawling will not affect any jobs.”

Riquelme’s rebuttal came after warnings from one of Chile’s largest fishing unions, Sonapesca, which claimed last week that up to 20,000 jobs could be lost due to the measure. 

In his own statement, Sonapesca General Manager Hector Bacigalupo warned that the freeze of bottom-trawling would not just affect the fishing companies and boats, but the entire community which relies on the economic activity generated from the fishing practice. Basigalupo questioned the need for the law, citing that fact that of the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 26 have an extractive fishing industry and none of them prohibit trawling.

“The authority starts from an argument that it must be closed and limited, but we would like to know why, because the reasons we have heard are myths – information from 50 years ago that are good slogans but do not have any technical nor scientific fundamentals,” Bacigalupo said.

Subpesca, in its statement, clarified that the activities taking place in the remaining two percent of Chile’s EEZ will not be limited. Riquelme said that the authority reserves the flexibility to move this two percent equivalent area, but not expand it. The decision to do so will be based on recommendations from the United Nations’ FAO, and may come as a result of climate change, Riquelme said.

“We are attending to the recommendation of the FAO, to advance slowly in replacing the trawling mechanism, as alternative technologies emerge that can address this fishing activity,” Riquelme said. Although the technique has been improved in order to better avoid catching other species not targeted by the industry, it remains an “unselective art of fishing,” he said.

Before the ban goes into effect, authorities are waiting opinions from local fishery councils, industry representatives, and Subpesca regional heads, expected to be compiled this month. 

There are 36 boats that currently fish via bottom-trawling in Chile, and the main players are Camanchaca, PacificBlu, Friosur, Pesquera Quintero, and Landes. Sales associated with the technique totaled around USD 163 million (EUR 141 million), according to the Sonapesca. The activity amounts to some CLP 10 billion (USD 14.4 million, EUR 12.5 million) in revenue in services for the seven communities where nearly 1,000 suppliers operate, the organization said.

Photo courtesy of Sonapesca


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