Salmon industry goes to the Constitutional Court, inherited from the Pinochet dictatorship, to weaken the Mapuche-Lafkenche Law and not pay fines for escaping salmon

The salmon industry in Patagonia is out of control: Comptroller General´s Office confirms the Far West denounced by Ecoceanos and social and indigenous organizations
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Industria salmonera recurre a Tribunal Constitucional para debilitar Ley Lafkenche y para no pagar multas por escape de salmones
19/05/2021
  • In 2018, hundreds of thousands of salmon, exotic and carnivorous species for Chilean waters, escaped from salmon farms that the multinational Mowi maintains on Guar Island, south of Puerto Montt. The Law requires recapturing 10% of these fish to avoid causing environmental damage to ecosystems.
  • Another company tries to weaken the Lafkenche Law that returns their coastal marine spaces to native peoples. The salmon industry indicates that it can continue advancing in its productive and geographical expansion in the Mapuche territories and those of the indigenous peoples of Patagonia.

Punta Arenas, May 18, 2021. (radiodelmar.cl) – The transnational salmon industry is using in Chile one of the most criticized institutions imposed by the civil-military dictatorship of Pinochet, -the Constitutional Court-, to continue imposing its farming centers in indigenous territories and also sneak out of the sanitary and environmental laws, and thus not pay the fines for the environmental damage of their millions of salmon escaped from their sea cages.

One of these is the case of the Norwegian transnational Mowi, which appealed to the Constitutional Court to challenge an article of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Law that deals with environmental damage caused by escapes of salmon. This is article 118 of Decree No. 430, of the General Law on Fisheries and Aquaculture (No. 18,892).

Based on these regulations, the National Fisheries Service sanctioned the multinational Mowi for the escape of more than 690,000 specimens of Atlantic salmon in July 2018, in a farming center in the area of Punta Redonda, Guar Island, Calbuco commune.

On that occasion, the Superintendency of the Environment also fined the Norwegian transnational with more than $ 5,300 million (about 7.5 million dollars), for not maintaining the appropriate security conditions, nor crop elements in optimal quality and resistance in the Punta Redonda center.

The Law requires salmon companies to capture a minimum of 10 percent of escaped salmon in events like this one. At that time, Mowi paid artisanal fishermen to accredit, without proof, having caught a percentage of salmon to achieve 10 percent of catches of the more than 690,000 escaped fish.

On this situation there is a process in court because fishermen and the Norwegian transnational, would be questioned in the accreditation of the dubious figures of recapture of escaped salmon indicated by Mowi.

Ultimately Sernapesca applied Article 118 quater of the Fisheries Law, confirming the environmental damage in accordance with the Law of General Bases of the Environment No. 19,300.

A Hard Blow to the Indigenous Coastal Territories: Weakening of the Lafkenche Law

The other case brought to the Constitutional Court by a salmon transnational is what happens in Magallanes, where the company SALMONES ALPEN LIMITADA, (Tax Registration Number 76.005.426-7), attempts that the Lafkenche Law (20.249) that recognizes and returns to the indigenous communities the Coastal Marine Spaces of Native Peoples (ECMPO), does not apply in places where the salmon industry wants to establish its marine culture cages.

The appeal presented by Salmones Alpen Ltda , is a request of inapplicability due to unconstitutionality, of articles 7 and 10 of Law 20,249, known as the Lafkenche law. This law was promoted by the coastal marine communities of the Mapuche People to regain ancestral access to their coastal areas of rivers, lakes and the sea.

Salmones Alpen Ltda., which in 2012 was bought by Australis Company, filed a claim because the Kawesqar Nomades del Mar and Atap Indigenous Communities, went to the court to demand the rejection of the permit that the Undersecretariat of Fisheries and Aquaculture gave to the salmon company, to continue its productive and geographical expansion in coastal areas of this aboriginal people

The lawyers of Salmones Alpen Ltda want to nullify articles 7 and 10 of the Lafkenche Law regarding that while the request for recognition of the coastal marine space of the indigenous communities has begun, the other procedures must be stopped while the return of the these territories and “maritory” to the native peoples.

The claims of the transnational salmon companies could generate “a dangerous precedent, since it could be the basis for other requirements of this type or a requirement where the Constitutional Court declares in an absolute or general way the unconstitutionality of the Lafkenche Law N° 20.2049 or any of its articles, which would leave it repealed or without legal effects, causing a legal vacuum «, say specialists who analyzed this situation.-