Fishing and Fish Farming
Thanks to the rich north-flowing Humboldt or Peru Current, which parallels the coast, Chile has become one of the world’s leading fisheries countries. Northern cities such as Iquique and Antofagasta are major fishmeal producers, but the entire coastline is historically productive, and, because Chile’s market is relatively small, it has brought an export boom.
The boom, though, has meant overfishing of species such as Chilean sea bass, more properly known as the Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides). While the toothfish in Chile’s territorial waters appears to be well-managed, uncontrolled pirate fishing boats in both the South Pacific and South Atlantic have placed its viability in question. U.S. Customs now routinely checks certification of any toothfish imports.
Another development is salmon farming in the cool ocean inlets and lakes from the southern Sur Chico south through Aisén and into Magallanes. According to the Asociación de Productores de Salmón y Trucha (Association of Salmon and Trout Producers), Chile exports 350,000 tons of farmed salmon and trout with a total value of US$1.4 billion; most of this goes to Japan and the United States.
This flourishing industry and its profits, however, have grown at the expense of environmental quality. Salmon feces, waste feed, and antibiotics have contaminated previously pristine lakes and waterways, and escaped fish have flourished at the expense of native stock. Some salmon farmers have also been responsible for killing sea lions that find easy dinner pickings around the floating cages. At the same time, small-scale fishermen unable to live off declining toothfish stocks have resorted to providing salmon farms with the smaller seafood that the predatory toothfish requires.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition