Bloody Chilean Patagonia: 14 salmon industry workers and divers died in 2021

Patagonia sangrienta: 14 trabajadores y buzos de la industria del salmón murieron durante el 2021
The reasons why in the US it is recommended to avoid consuming salmon produced in Chile
  • The new process of productive and territorial expansion of this export industry, stimulated by billionaire profits and the support of the Chilean State, has been accompanied by an increase in the mortality of workers in the cultivation centers, processing plants, and the land and sea transport.
  • Ecoceanos Centre points out that «this dramatic situation confirms the complaints about the low standards of labor safety, the complicity of the Chilean supervisory authorities, and the double labor standards of the transnational companies that operate in the coastal regions of southern Chile.»


* Diver accident at Aqua Chile salmon farming center, Aysen region. Chile. Photo: Directemar.

Punta Arenas, Magallanes region, Chilean Patagonia. January 07, 2022 (Ecoceanos News) – The Ecoceanos Centre delivered a preliminary report on labor mortality in the Chilean-based salmonid export mega-industry, noting that during 2021 14 workers died in the farming centers, processing plants industrial and shipping transport, due to the prevailing precarious working conditions, high levels of subcontracting and temporary contracts, in a context of surprising lack of government controls.

The main affected were divers from farming centers (42%), workers at processing plants and fish farming (42%), and ship crews (16%).

Continuing with almost a decade of increasing accident rates and mortalities of workers in the mega-industry that grows salmonids destined for export, the average of one dead worker per month is maintained, whose ages fluctuated between 19 and 63 years.

In the middle of the process of a new territorial and productive expansion of this industry in Chilean waters, occupational mortalities are concentrated in 50% in the Los Lagos region (Chiloe archipelago), 44% in Aysen, and 0.6% of Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica. Occupational fatalities were concentrated between January and April (42%) and December (28%).

Blood salmon from Chilean Patagonia:

Among the causes of occupational mortality during 2021 were electrocution in processing plants and farming centers (2), crushing in the movement of underwater counterweights of the salmon-pens (2), entrapment in a boat propeller (1), burns by fire in a fish farm (1), suffocation by submersion (2), fight in a farm (1), suicide in a farm (1), complications derived from Covid 19 in a processing plant (2), and accidents in shipping of inputs and salmon (2).

The main company where worker mortality occurred is Los Fiordos / AquaChile, with 42% of cases, followed by the process plant and cultivation centers of Marine Farm / Granja Marina Tornagaleones with 14%, followed by Mowi companies , Pacific Star / Salmones Austral, Blumar, Oceanrob, and Detroit shipping company.

Among the main subcontractor companies involved in the high mortality rates due to the precarious work safety conditions, SGM Austral, Servicios Prime SpA, and the Society of Aquaculture Projects and Submarine Services (Passub), and also IngChile.

Labor standards in the industrial production of salmon in Chile: A giant with mud feet

Since 2013, the mega salmon industry in Chile has started a new phase of territorial expansion with the aim of doubling its current productions, especially in the pristine regions of Chilean Patagonia. During the last seasons, this mega industry reached productions of one million tons per year valued at 5.1 billion dollars (5 billion dollars).

This new process of productive and territorial expansion, stimulated by billionaire profits and supported by the Chilean State, has been accompanied by a new cycle of increase in the mortality of male and female workers in farming centers, processing plants, and land transportation. and maritime.

Information from the Ecoceanos Centre, the Federation of Workers of Quellón (Fetrasal), the National Union of Divers of Chile and the Federation of Maritime Trade Unions (Fesimar), denounced that during 2019, 18 workers in the salmon industry died, due to precarious working conditions and lack of government control.

The Ecoceanos Centre pointed out that between 2013 and 2021 there were 68 deaths of workers in processing plants, farming centers, and maritime and land transportation activities. The citizen organization pointed out that «this cruel and unacceptable labor reality in the south of Chile is more typical of a banana or third world country, than of the second largest producer and exporter of farmed salmonids in the world.»

The citizen organization points out that «this dramatic situation confirms the complaints about the low standards of labor safety, the complicity of the Chilean supervisory authorities, and the double labor standards of the transnational companies that operate in the coastal regions of southern Chile.»

* Corpse in a salmon farming center in southern Chile. 2021. Photo: Chilean Navy.


Chile has the highest mortality rates for workers in the salmon industry worldwide.

Juan Carlos Cárdenas, director of Ecoceanos Centre indicated that «the high rates of mortality and accident rates, undeniably demonstrate the precarious labor security conditions prevailing in the second country that produces and exports farmed salmon, which are mainly used to supply the North American market, along with those of Japan, China, Brazil, Russian Federation and Europe ”.

The veterinarian pointed out that “Chile is the producer of farmed salmon with the highest mortality and accident rate in the world. At the same time, it is the salmonid exporting country with the longest working hours, the lowest wages, the greatest infringements of the maternity and gender rights of its workers, and a high precariousness of work, through the use of subcontractors, temporary contracts, where repetitive work prevails under conditions of humidity and low temperatures, or which generates a high prevalence of disabling diseases, or the existence of unsafe diving in cage rafts at depths greater than 30 meters, without the necessary equipment and safeguards » .

The Centro Ecocéanos called “the social movement, international consumers and workers’ organizations to join forces to pressure the Chilean State to stop the “third world numbers of deaths” of salmon workers, a direct consequence of the neoliberal policies of labor deregulation, the complicity of the the Chilean State, corporate greed and the double standards of transnational companies”.

* Fire in AquaChile salmon fish farm. Photo: Puerto Montt Firefighters, Chile.


* Evacuation of workers due to ammonia leakage. Chinquihue plant. Cermaq Chile. Photo: Social networks.



Annex I
Preliminary list of occupational deaths of salmon workers during 2021

1) December 20th, 2021. Death of a 20-year-old worker, due to burns of 50% of his body in a fire in the fish farm of the company Aqua Chile S.A. in the Reloncavi sector, Los Lagos region (authorities and company did not provide a name). Four workers subcontracted by the IngChile company were affected. One of them is seriously ill with 80% of his body burned.

2) December 17th, 2021: Death of an electrocuted crew member on the deck of the boat, identified as D.A.N (63 years) in the well boat Linda Mariike of the Detroit company while waiting for the turn to land salmon for the company Los Fiordos / AquaChile S.A. Quellón Bay, Chiloe, Los Lagos region.

3) December 15th, 2021. Death by trapping in a boat propeller of the shellfish diver Cristian Gonzalez inside the Krauss salmon farming center, owned by the company Marine Farm / Granja Marina Tornagaleones. Puerto Cisnes, Aysen region.

4) December 7th, 2021. A fight in a salmon farming center in the Skyring bosom, Rio Verde commune, Magallanes region, ended the life of worker Felipe Mancilla Arriagada (30 years old), killed by a stab wound in the chest. The name of the center and the company that owns it was not given.

5) October 1st, 2021. Death of intermediate shellfish diver identified as D.A.H.J. as a result of a fall from a boat at the Lagrezze salmon farming center, owned by the AquaChile company, located 3.5 nautical miles from the Port of Melinka, Aysen region.

6) August 09th, 2021. A 19-year-old worker with both arms are amputated in an endless roller of the industrial plant for liquid industrial waste (Riles) of the Pacific Star company, owned by Salmones Austral, Quellon commune, island from Chiloe, Los Lagos region (authorities and the company did not disclose its name).

7) July 20th, 2021. Suicide of a 30-year-old worker hired by the Oceanrov company who would go to work in farming centers in Mowi Chile. Surroundings of Alao Island, Quinchao commune, Los Lagos region.

8) July 24th, 2021. Death of a worker identified as C.P.C., electrocuted while maintaining the incineration platform of the Johnson farm, owned by AquaChile S.A. Aysen region.

9) April 23rd, 2021. Death of the basic diver Andrés Alejandro Teigel Coliague (41 years old), subcontracted by the SGM Austral company. who was carrying out anchoring work at the Gala 2 cultivation center, belonging to AquaChile / Agrosuper holding. Aysen region.

10) April 1st, 2021. A corpse whose identity was not given was found by workers in a raft-cage of the salmon farming center in the Oqueldan sector, Quellon commune, Chiloe.

11) February 25th, 2021. The artisanal fisher diver Cristian Díaz Leiva (58 years old), sub-hired by the company Servicios Prime SpA, dies from suffocation by submersion, during the removal of the underwater counterweights from the rafts-cages in the Concheo 2 salmon farming center, Puerto Aysen commune, owned by Salmones Blumar. Aysen region.  Three months after the death, the Chilean Security Association (ACHS), through a brief email, explained this accident as «non-work», since it would correspond to a «misfortune of a common nature» (sic), not corresponding to the widow and children the coverage of Law 16,744 in terms of a survivor’s pension.

Christian Aros, regional director (S) of Labor had indicated that after the accident, “Our service completed its inspection process in March of this year, applying eight fines to the company Primes SpA, (subcontractor) which was the direct employer of the worker that died due to violations and infractions, both of labor standards and of hygiene and safety ”.

12) February 9, 2021. Death by suffocation due to submersion at 52 mt. depth of Hector Lagos Peñailillo, (42 years old), sub-contracted by the Society for Aquaculture Projects and Submarine Services (Passub). Aysen 2 cultivation center, owned by the company Los Fiordos / AquaChile S.A. Puerto Chacabuco, Aysen region,

13) January 29th, 2021. Death of E.M.Z. (58 years old) chief of the motor ship «Frigg» of the Detroit Shipping company due to inflammatory, acute and diffuse lung damage, product of a SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia that he would have acquired while on board, without the company taking the respective measures. Ancud, Chiloe, Los Lagos region.

14) January 14, 2021. Death of a salmon industry worker (51 years old), – who was not identified-, in the Hospital of Quellon as a result of a serious pneumonia caused by SARS-CoV-2. The worker was PCR positive, her health situation had been kept secret. The operator worked in the filleting section of the Marine Farm / Granja Marina Tornagaleones process plant. Quellon, Chiloe, Los Lagos region.


Source: Ecoceanos Centre, January 2022.