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.