Conflict mounts in Chile over new cuttlefish law

Published on
January 28, 2019

Chile’s government has enacted a law that would restrict the use of trawling methods to harvest its cuttlefish resources, bringing to a head a conflict between the country’s commercial and artisan fishing sectors.

The bill bans trawling for cuttlefish, also known in Chile as jibia or sepia, putting in place fines of up to USD 38,000 (EUR 33,300) for violators, and stipulates that only hand-lines can be used to extract the resource. 

Chile’s commercial fishing industry has fought the measure, arguing that it does not represent sound science but rather reflects political interests in Chile’s congress. One of the most vocal critics has been Roberto Izquierdo, the president of the fishing firm Alimar, who blasted the move by President Sebastian Piñera’s administration, calling his administration “populist and weak” in a report from El Mostrador.

The law has resulted in street protests by fishermen in both the artisan and commercial sectors.

The artisan fishing sector has been protesting since the beginning of January over a threat by Piñera to veto the bill, setting up barricades and burning tires in Chile’s Bio Bio region. After Piñera’s government announced last Wednesday that it would not issue a veto, artisan representatives hailed it as a victory for the sector.

“We are calling for unity,” Hernàn Cortès, the president of Chile’s National Council for the Defense of Fishing Heritage, told Radio U de Chile. “There are still many battles … [but] today I want to congratulate the workers and companions who took to the streets to fight so that this regulation would go ahead without any variations.” 

But the administration’s announcement resulted in representatives of the commercial sector to commence its own protests. The president of a Bio Bio industrial fishing union, Juan Carlos Gonzàlez, criticized the government for ceding to the pressure of the artisan sector. Gonzàlez said the industry’s demands were not being heard and questioned the lack of technical consideration in the decision. 

“This law leaves us in horrible shape,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Subpesca

Reporting from Santiago, Chile

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