Call for cooperation to contain damage by Chile's salmon farms

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The Aysén region in southern Chile — a key habitat for several endangered marine species — is under enormous pressure from the country's powerful salmon industry. Chile should follow the lead of nations such as Italy (see Nature 464, 673; 2010), Australia and the United States and urgently consider an integrated, more collaborative approach between its aquaculture industry and conservation policies.

Chile exports US$2 billion of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) every year, and the area taken up by aquaculture is increasing. The magnitude of the salmon farms and their associated noise and pollution are among several threats to local wildlife. Atlantic salmon is an alien predator, with uncharted effects on the endemic fish population and the entire local ecosystem. Nets used to protect the farmed fish are a hazard to marine mammals. The aquacultures also threaten local fisheries and the development of sustainable tourism.

Politicians and the public are largely unaware of these dangers because potential environmental damage by industries is not systematically controlled in Chile. We suggest implementing collaborative efforts between aquaculture industries and local fisheries (see Nature 463, 1007; 2010) and applying stringent environmental controls.

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  1. Ocean Sounds, 8312 Henningsvaer, Vestfjord, Norway

    • Heike Vester
  2. Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, 37073 Göttingen, Germany

    • Marc Timme

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  1. Report this comment #11249

    Matias Medina said:

    For how long did Mr. Vester and Mr. Timme stay in Chile? How many aquaculture sites did they visit? Have they visited aquaculture sites in other countries? How much do they know about Chilean aquaculture and about the other productive sectors that share coastal zones with salmon aquaculture? How many researchers working on environmental impacts of aquaculture in Chile do they know? Do they know their research? Are Mr. Vester and Timme aware of the Chilean legislation that rules and control potential environmental impacts of aquaculture activities in Chile?

    All these questions come to my mind when I read the note by Vester and Timme. Research has been done and is been done in Chile about the potential impacts of aquaculture in general and salmon aquaculture in particular. Information has been released and politicians as well as the public in general are aware of these damages. Several measures have been taken. Of course there are environmental impacts and of course much more has to be done. But I found rather irresponsible to publish a patronizing note without given a full view of the picture, without considering all the antecedents. In this sense the note makes no contribution. There are several initiatives and people among the public sector but also in the private and scientific sector addressing these issues and making a huge effort to contribute towards the generation of more information and to achieve cooperation to contain damage by Chile´s salmon farms.

    I would like to invite both authors to explore in depth the Chilean situation regarding environmental damage of salmon aquaculture in Chile; they will definitely find a social, political and environmental scenario which is very different from nations such as Italy. I would like the authors to apply their recognized experience in Chile and to make a real contribution.

  2. Report this comment #11252

    Sandor Mulsow said:

    In 2005, I submitted a short note to Nature News entitled: If benthos could only talk... salmon farming and azoic benthic conditions., surprisingly it was not accepted because it was¨not news for Nature¨ or it was considered something already discussed. To my surprise yesterday the same journal, Nature, published something quite shallow at its correspondence section on the impact of fish farming in southern Chile. The difference between my news, not published by Nature, and the one sent by Vester and Timme and published Nature 465, 869 (17 June 2010) doi:10.1038/465869d, is that I am not from a Max Planck Institute nor from Norway (?) but from a place where I work closely linked geographically to the impact of fish farming on the natural capitals found on the seafloor of southern Chile. Really, I need a good explanation and a better definition on International Cooperation.

  3. Report this comment #11405

    Hernan Canon said:

    Mrs. Vester and Dr. Timme make a very interesting point on the cooperation amongst aquaculture industry, NGO's, local fisheries in all countries where aquaculture exists. I agree with Dr. Medina that Chilean public and private sectors are working towards a more sustainable aquaculture industry and there is still much to be done. However, I do believe that some statements made by Mrs. Vester and Dr. Timme should be taken with caution and only as an opinion. The effect of noise generated by human activities on fish and other aquatic organism is still a debatable issue (1-2). Additionally, although salmon escapees can have potential detrimental effects through competition on wild species, especially in areas where salmon is a native species (3), and where there is low local fisheries captures of the escapes (4), the dimension of this impact (in quantity and quality) in the ecosystem has not been fully elucidated or understood, at least in geographical areas such as in southern Chile. Also, well managed aquaculture farms do not necessarily threaten local fisheries or the development of sustainable tourism, as it has been the case in less economically developed areas such as sub-Sahara and Asia (5). In this respect, countries with well developed aquaculture industries, such as Chile, Norway, Canada or UK should work towards the improvement of dignity of work and sustainability of the productive sector. In the specific case of Chile, there has been an increase in employment and salary in both regions of Chile directly linked to the establishment of aquaculture industry (6). For me, it would have been nice to have the scientific evidence supporting the authors? statements related to state Chilean aquaculture industry in general and to what they called damage of aquaculture in farm sites in Chile, specifically. It would be encouraging to have both authors collaborating and cooperating with their knowledge alongside aquaculture scientists, NGO's and governmental agencies in the future.
    1 Kane, A. S. et al. Exposure of fish to high-intensity sonar does not induce acute pathology. Journal of Fish Biology 76, 1825-1840 (2010).
    2 Popper, A. N. & Hastings, M. C. The effects of human-generated sound on fish. Integrative Zoology 4, 43-52 (2009).
    3 Naylor, R. et al. Fugitive salmon: Assessing the risks of escaped fish from net-pen aquaculture. Bioscience 55, 427-437 (2005).
    4 Soto, D., Jara, F. & Moreno, C. Escaped salmon in the inner seas, southern Chile: Facing ecological and social conflicts. Ecological Applications 11, 1750-1762.
    5 FAO, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. The state of world fisheries and aquaculture 2006. Report No. 978-92-5-105568-7, (Rome, 2007).
    6 Subsecretaria de Pesca, Gobierno de Chile. (2006). La Acuicultura en Chile. Powerpoint presentation. Last visited: 25 June 2010 at

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