«The diplomatic, geopolitical and business related visit of the Norwegian delegation frightens us about what the future of the ancestral lands and cultures of Patagonia will be like. We are indigenous millenials with our survival at stake».
Open letter to King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway in regards to their visit to the ancestral lands of the Kawésqar communities of South American Patagonia
Honorable King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway,
Feel welcome to the ancestral lands of Kawésqar Waes (The Kawésqar Ocean), in this celebration of the 100 years of friendly relations between the peoples of Chile and Norway. Our presence and culture in the southwest Patagonian channels date back 6000 years. Until the end of the 1800’s we had lived in harmony with Nature. A stance which brutally changed and extended into the first decades of the 1900’s, with a process of systematic genocide instigated and a posterior cultural assimilation imposed by the states of Chile and Argentina, in favor of investors and stockbreeders, miners and hunters, as many Chilean as foreigners, with the ends of taking our vast territories and natural resources.
In the beginning of the 21st century we, together with the Yaghan communities, see this cycle returning and repeating itself, trying to implement the final phase of economic, social and cultural assimilation of our canoe communities – a process dependant on the complicit and active support of the Chilean state and its regional officials.
This process seeks to «clear» the Magallanes Region of our communities, just as the cattle farmers and the meat and sheep wool companies did 100 years ago.
This time, the salmon industrialization forced upon Patagonia seeks to open up and dispose of vast marine coastal areas, fjords, lakes, rivers and natural springs of freshwater to the billions in investments made by the groups of national family enterprises and Nordic, Asian and European transnationals, with the objective of doubling the current production of exportable salmons from Magallanes in 2024, and reach the messianic and environmentally destructive goal of a national production of 1.2 million tonne of exportable salmon in 2032 – something which would convert South American Patagonia into the principal productive and exportive region of industrial salmon on the planet.
Today, the old farmers, miners and hunters of whale, nutria and sea lions have been replaced by a small number of salmon mega companies, integrated in the international financial system in an alliance with transnational companies from Norway, Japan, China, Canada and Europe, taking possession of the coastal lands of our Kawésqar Waes, of natural resources such as fishing grounds, freshwater and local labor, and ultimately of what is our cultural heritage.
We claim that we are found facing an assault on South American Patagonia – one of the last paradises of marine biodiversity existing on the planet – aiming to intensively and industrially farm and export millions of salmons to international markets, an activity that generated 5000 millions of USD in 2018.
Just like what happened in the expansion of stockbreeding in the 19th and 20th centuries, this process – genocidal in the physical and cultural and destructive in the sanitary and environmental – is based upon an imposition of an occupational model excluding us from our territories, and the introduction of an industrial monoculture of carnivorous fish introduced from the Northern Hemisphere to the pristine and vulnerable waters of Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia.
In this, errors and horrors have been made, such as the Chilean state in 2017 eliminating the environmental protection of the water surrounding the recently created Kawésqar National Park – one of the most extense parks of Chilean Patagonia. This occured in order to allow for and secure new concessions to the salmon industry, without respecting our absolute rejection of this colonial measure, imposed by the central administration of Santiago de Chile, something we put into writing during the Indigenous Consultation carried out in Puerto Natales, Magallanes Region, in October 2017.
As evidence of the absolute impunity with which the salmon industry operates – having converted the Magallanes Region into a true «wild south-west» – is the contaminated mud dump established with the support of the Service for Evaluation of Environmental Impact (Servicio de Evaluación de Impacto Ambiental, SEIA), with mud stemming from salmon farms – only 15 km from the Torres del Paine National Park, declared as Biosphere reserve by Unesco in 1978, and as one of the 5 most beautiful wild places of the planet, by National Geographic.
The citizens, artisanal fishermen, small scale agriculturers, inhabitants and nomadic Kawésqar canoe communities – we are directly affected by the current establishment of the processing plants and industrial salmon farming centers, with salmon to some 98% destined for export.
The expansion of industrial salmon monocultures and their destructive practices in our territories is provoking profound damage. This is proven by the existence of 168 farming centers with anaerobic conditions – lack of dissolved oxygen in waters adjacent to the sea cages, a consequence of the organic contamination of salmon feces or uneaten food, falling to the sea floor. This kills the existence of endemic marine life in the water columns surrounding what’s known as the «salmon culture areas of concession».
In September 2016, the Comptroller General of Chile (General Accounting Office), emitted informs from two audits performed by the National Service of Fishery and Aquaculture (Sernapesca) and the Subsecretary of Fishery and Aquaculture (Subpesca). These confirmed that 53% of the industrial farms in the Magallanes Region presented absence of oxygen in their perimeters. The massive escapes of salmons from farming centers are also damaging the valuable and unique ecosystems and the aquatic biodiversity of Patagonia.
The diplomatic, geopolitical and business related visit of the Norwegian delegation frightens us about what the future of the ancestral lands and cultures of Patagonia will be like. We are indigenous millenials with our survival at stake. We do not understand how Norway, a developed society that respects the environment, the oceans, citizen rights and indigenous communities, can allow their oversea enterprises to apply double standards in environmental, sanitary, labor and social issues for the citizens, locals and indigenous communities inhabiting the extreme south of Latin America.
We call on citizen organizations and stockholders in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland, who have funds in the salmon industry, to pay attention to what is happening in the Patagonian territory of Chile and Argentina and to support the campaign of boycott of the consumption of chemical industrial salmon, and to choose natural and local products of artisanal origin, regulated and sustainable.
Honorable King Harald V and Queen Sonja. If the transnational production and export industry of farmed salmon had a heaven, it would be located in Norway. And if it would have a corresponding hell, it would without doubt be in southern Chile.
We were and are small scale fishermen, hunter and gatherers. Our life style and world view are based on the ocean and the grand variety of wild life existing in the hundreds of canals and fjords of Patagonia.
We hope that our position will be regarded by You and the Norwegian ambassador of Chile, in such that the bad behaviour of some salmon companies from the Nordics won’t threaten 100 years of peaceful, affectionate and creative relations between the peoples of Chile and Norway.
Kawésqar communities for the Defense of the Ocean
Kawésqar Waes, Magallanes Region, 30th of March 2019