Argentina became the first country to ban salmon farming after the Tierra del Fuego region approved a bill which outlawed salmon aquaculture last week. The move did not come as a surprise for the sector as protests against salmon farming had started two years ago when the Argentinean government announced a partnership with the Norwegian government to study the implementation of fish farms in the Beagle Chanel in Argentina.
The ruling came as a disappointment to the sector. One aquaculture executive was disappointed that they had failed at the first hurdle, “Argentina repeatedly shoots itself in the foot when it comes to economic growth. The country desperately needs foreign exchange and is currently an importer of salmon so becoming a net exporter is a huge opportunity. We had hoped for tighter regulation, zoning, controls, environmental assessments etc but they have just banned it entirely. It’s very disappointing.”
“The country desperately needs foreign exchange and is currently an importer of salmon so becoming a net exporter is a huge opportunity.”
Aquaculture executive, Argentina
An industry commentator provided some local context, “In the immediate term, the prohibition will have no impact as Tierra del Fuego was still evaluating the possibility of starting aquaculture here. Norway, a leading country in salmon farming and environmental care, was providing input into the process.” The aquaculture executive countered, “The law may not have an impact today and production will not fall but the impact comes in the form of a missed opportunity for growth.”
The current debate involving salmon farming is divided between lawmakers, who prioritise a sustainability agenda and those who favour a more pro-business agenda – with Chile often used as a case study for Argentina’s emerging industry. Proponents of the latter point out that Chile exports USD 5 billion of salmon, more than 5% of the country’s annual exports.
Contrarily, environmentalists argue that salmon is an exotic species and emphasise that environmental disasters continue to happen in Chile despite regulations that strictly control environmental certifications and good aquaculture practices.
“Tierra del Fuego is not a precedent for Chile but they should be worried about the longer term environmental credentials of their aquaculture industry.”
Industry commentator, Argentina
Neighbouring Chile is an obvious case study and has one of the largest salmon farming industries in the world, and although the decision will not have a direct impact on salmon farming in Chile, it could put greater pressure on lawmakers who may be targeted by activists and politicians in the regions of Los Lagos and Magallanes. The industry commentator thought that Chile should start taking action, “Tierra del Fuego is not a precedent for Chile but they should be worried about the longer term environmental credentials of their aquaculture industry. Experts tell me that the Norwegian model is more sustainable that the Chilean one, perhaps Chile needs to start adapting.”