The decision bans salmon farming from the fabled area of Patagonia, the province of Tierra Del Fuego, and effectively from the whole of Argentina itself. The decision marks a major precedent. It’s the first time the farmed salmon industry has been locked out of a sovereign nation and puts the industry on notice all around the world as it chases aggressive expansion.
The Argentine government and the government of the Tierra Del Fuego province had signed a deal with Norway to develop salmon production in cages as recently as 2019.
However, the industry was not welcomed by local residents, and they were soon joined by neighbouring Chilean communities, environmental non-profits, and outdoor brand Patagonia. Their advocacy put a halt to the development of the industry, then overnight a bill presented to finally ban the salmon industry by law was unanimously approved. As Tierra Del Fuego is home to the only area in Argentina suitable for caged salmon farming, it effectively bans it from the whole country.
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.
Importantly, today’s historic decision in Argentina is a blueprint for neighbouring Chile, where salmon farming has a strong presence but is also being opposed by local communities, led by big-wave surfer Ramon Navarro.
“Today’s historic vote shows the people of Argentina value wild salmon, biodiversity and local communities over a reckless industry that’s bankrupting our oceans.” – Yvon Chouinard
Today’s decision was roundly welcomed by the founder of outdoor company Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, who has visited the area for decades as both a climber and fly fisherman. “Today’s historic vote shows the people of Argentina value wild salmon, biodiversity and local communities over a reckless industry that’s bankrupting our oceans. Coastal communities should take notice of what happened in Argentina and follow their lead. A life without nature is not a life worth living, and that is where we are headed if we don’t act now.”
The news in Argentina has also been met with interest in Australia, where the island state of Tasmania is experiencing the aggressive expansion of caged salmon farms.
Booker Prize-winning Australian novelist, Richard Flanagan, who’s also the author of Toxic, a book about the salmon industry in Tasmania, stated: "Argentina has in Patagonia one of the last great places of wonder in the world. Industrial salmon farming will destroy it and, with it, a better future for all Argentinians. The gains are few and only for the executives and investors, while the losses will be immense, eternal and diminish your nation. Argentina can be a world leader by saying no to a rapacious folly that is becoming discredited in country after country and be applauded globally for its courageous vision. And when people come to see what was saved, they will also mourn what has been lost in Chile, in Norway, in Scotland, in Canada, and my home island of Tasmania – and they will wish their governments had shown the wisdom of Argentina.”
Find out more about the win in Argentina here and get behind Environment Tasmania’s petition focussed on Australian supermarkets stocking farmed salmon.
Banner image: courtesy of Patagonia Argentina.