BUENOS AIRES — The Provincial Legislature of Tierra del Fuego in Argentina unanimously approved a bill today that bans salmon farming in marine cages.
Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost province of Argentina, is the only viable location in Argentina for this type of salmon farming, therefore, today’s vote effectively positioned Argentina as the first country to ban this intensive and environmentally destructive industry.
Salmon farming is the farming and harvesting of salmonids, under controlled conditions, for commercial purposes. Salmon farming in cages is only possible in cold-water environments that are often fragile yet rich in biodiversity. Consequences of salmon farming include massive salmon mortalities, intensification of toxic algae blooms (such as red tide), introduction of exotic species, the loss of local fauna, generation of dead zones, entanglement of marine mammals and bacterial resistance. According to a Just Economics report, the salmon industry seeks to grow fivefold over the next 10 years, threatening the waters of the Beagle Channel.
In 2019, the Argentine government and the government of the Tierra del Fuego province signed an agreement with Norway to develop salmon production in cages. The salmon industry was not welcomed by Tierra del Fuego residents, who joined neighboring Chilean communities, environmental nonprofits, and the outdoor apparel brand #patagonia to call for ocean protection. As a result of their advocacy, the government decided to put a temporary halt to the project. Today, provincial Legislator Pablo Villegas and Vice Governor Mónica Urquiza presented a bill to finally ban the salmon industry by law, and it was unanimously approved.
The number of coastal communities questioning this industry grows steadily. In the United States, Canada, Scotland, Iceland, Tasmania and Norway, local communities oppose to the installation of cages, and although they have long sought to remove them from their fjords and channels, this is the first time a government has banned the industry. Importantly, today’s historic decision is a blueprint for Chile, where salmon farming has a strong presence in the regions of Los Lagos and Magallanes, and even in the Kawésqar National Reserve and the Alberto Agostini Park.
By saying no to the salmon farming industry, Argentina is showing that the urgency of the environmental crisis we are facing can be addressed through the design of policies that identify scenarios, build consensus, and define a course of action to achieve the common good over sectoral interests. Tierra del Fuego successfully anticipated and listened to residents, choosing to preserve one of Earth’s last pristine lungs and the identity and culture of the province, setting a precedent for the rest of the world.
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