Salmones Aysén closes Puerto Montt plant, citing waning business, legal uncertainty

Salmones Aysén employees processing coho salmon
Salmones Aysén employees processing coho salmon | Photo courtesy of Salmones Aysén
4 Min

Salmones Aysén – the only salmon-farming firm in Chile that solely focuses on the production of coho salmon – has temporarily closed its processing facility in the southern city of Puerto Montt, with a company executive attributing the shutdown to the Chilean government’s lack of support for the aquaculture sector.

“We had a maquila contract that suffered a significant reduction of almost two-thirds, and that meant we were unable to keep our Puerto Montt plant open,” Salmones Aysén Founder and President Pablo Baraona told Salmonexpert.  A maquila contract is a third-party processing contract.

Baraona said Salmones Aysén would like to reopen the plant but is not sure when it will be possible.

"But for that, we need to increase our production, which for the moment is stagnant, like the rest of the industry,” he said.

Baraona accused Chilean authorities of lacking interest in providing the conditions needed for Chile’s salmon-farming sector to thrive – a criticism echoed by many of the country’s other salmon-farming firms.

Chile President Gabriel Boric has made reform of the country's national fisheries law a priority since he took office in March 2022, and his government has ramped up its regulation of the aquaculture sector since. In response to the discovery of numerous regulatory violations, Chile's authorities have limited the industry's operational expansion opportunities. 

Baraona also voiced concern about developments under the Original Peoples’ Maritime Coastal Spaces (ECMPO) framework, which is a concept governed under Chilean legislation known as the Lafkenche Law. Supporters said the law marked a milestone in recognizing Indigenous territorial rights in Chile, but the salmon industry claims it has paralyzed investment in the sector, as it could allow a small group that is often antagonistic to industrial development to define the management of areas that host fishing farms.

“Our greatest concern is the institutional or regulatory uncertainty, where we frequently encounter surprises,” Salmones Camanchaca Vice Chairman Ricardo García said during the company’s Q4 2023 results call.

Until the investment landscape proves more certain, Salmones Aysén said it plans to keep its Puerto Montt plant shuttered. 

“We will concentrate our operation in our plant in Ancud [on the island of Chiloé] and some small maquilas in a third plant,” Baraona said.

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