Santiago, Nov 8 (EFE).- A dozen Greenpeace activists wearing salmon costumes enclosed themselves in a small cage outside La Moneda presidential palace here Tuesday to highlight the threat the salmon industry poses to Chile’s portion of the Patagonia region.
Standing around that metal structure, intended as a mini model of the huge aquaculture sea cages that industry uses, were five other activists dressed in black.
Each of them carried orange signs with messages warning of the danger to whales and calling for a ban on these production facilities in that southern region.
Silvana Espinosa, a Greenpeace spokeswoman, told Efe that the salmon cages can be the area of a soccer field at the surface of the sea and as tall as a 15-story building under water.
That industry “has polluted our waters, devastated marine fjords and led to the escape of (farmed) salmon, which devastate other species and are creating a huge ecosystem imbalance.”
Chile is the world’s second-leading salmon producer after Norway, and salmon farming is an increasingly important part of the country’s export matrix.
According to Central Bank figures, salmon’s share of Chile’s non-copper exports nearly doubled over a period of 11 years from 6.9 percent in 2010 to 12.5 percent in 2021.
In that latter year, the country’s salmon exports were valued at $5.18 billion.
However, many in recent years have been denouncing the darker side of that lucrative industry and demanding that salmon farms be removed from protected areas of Patagonia, which are home to around 30 cetacean species and 50 percent of all of the types of sea birds registered in Chile.
According to Greenpeace, a total of 132 salmon farm concessions have already been approved and 87 more are in the pipeline in Chile’s southernmost Magallanes region.
Of that total, 67 concessions have been granted and 66 are pending in the Kawesqar National Park, a protected area of vast environmental wealth located more than 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) south of Santiago.
“We can’t allow it. We have the responsibility to protect this area, which is home to species like the humpback whale that arrives annually with its young seeking food and shelter,” Espinosa said.
“Installing a salmon farm in a reserve is as ridiculous as installing a salmon farm in downtown Santiago,” read one sign held up by a Greenpeace activist outside the presidential palace.
The Chilean arm of that environmental watchdog also has launched the nomassalmoneras.cl (No More Salmon Farms) campaign and called on citizens to go online and sign a petition aimed at halting the industry’s advance.
“Between 2010 and 2020, there was a moratorium on the approval of new salmon farming projects in the Los Lagos and Aysen regions (located in southern Chile, north of Magallanes). Nevertheless, production grew by more than 100,000 tons in both (places),” Espinosa said.
Greenpeace’s intervention in Chile coincides with the ongoing 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), which will run through Nov. 18 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. EFE