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The Political Ecology of Chilean Salmon Aquaculture, 1982–2010: A trajectory from economic development to global sustainability


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Through the case of the salmon aquaculture sector in Chile, the risks involved in the development of a non-traditional export sector are reviewed, in order to point to failings (lessons not learned) and opportunities (lessons learned, new plans), and the changing scales of stakeholder interactions. In particular the paper highlights the ways in which sustainability considerations have gained ground in terms of evaluating sectoral development and what is expected from this development. These considerations have emerged as a result of the increasing globalisation of the sector, through investment, exports and international ‘attention’ from an increasingly diverse set of stakeholders. These sustainability considerations have generated a range of conflicts linked to these diverse actors. The actors are local, national and global, operating through alliances to bring pressure on others. The conflicts relate to environmental quality, foreign direct investment (FDI), local socio-economic development, regional development, national economic strategies, and new globalised issues relating to the production and consumption of foodstuffs. The contemporary panorama in the sector is significantly different from the early origins in the 1980s under the dictatorship – the period of ‘the socio-ecological silence’ – also different from the 1990s period of economic expansion – ‘the economic imperative’. Over the past twenty-five years, the Chilean aquaculture sector has evolved from experimental production to a major global industry. Regulatory frameworks and civil society awareness and mobilisation have struggled to ‘catch up’ with the dynamism of the sector, however the gap has reduced and the future of the sector within the contemporary context of ‘glocal’ sustainability is now under the microscope: the ‘sustainable globalisation perspective’. The collapse of the sector during the period 2008–2010 as a consequence of the ISA virus is a key moment with production severely diminished. The way out of the crisis, via new legislation and inspection regimes, will create a new structure of aquaculture governance. Nevertheless, the crisis marks a turning point in the industry, revealing the weaknesses built into the former productive system.
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The political ecology of Chilean salmon aquaculture, 1982–2010:
A trajectory from economic development to global sustainability
Jonathan R. Barton
*, Arnt Fløysand
Instituto de Estudios Urbanos y Territoriales, Pontificia Universidad Cato
´lica de Chile, El Comendador 1916, Providencia, Santiago de Chile, Chile
Department of Geography, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
1. Towards more sustainable globalisation: glocalising effects
On 27 March 2008, The New York Times published an article
critical of practices that had led to the emergence of the ISA
(infectious salmon anaemia) virus which, in turn, had brought
about the closure of several production sites in Chile and
quarantine for others. The article generated a vociferous response
from the Chilean producers association SalmonChile, also heated
exchanges in national political channels and between NGOs,
producers and politicians. The detail of the exchanges related to
accusations of misuse of antibiotics in the industry, and a
correction relating to an information source was made by the
newspaper. However, the essence of the debate was something
quite different. Effectively, the Chilean industry was being
challenged by a well respected and widely read daily newspaper
in its largest market. Rather than a challenge by local NGOs against
producers in a national context through a local newspaper, the
debate had become globalised. A further point, that is also highly
relevant within this globalisation context, is that the principal
affected firm is Norwegian-owned: Marine Harvest.
The New York
Times article symbolises a turning point in the sector’s develop-
ment—effectively globalising the issues relating to a local
Global Environmental Change 20 (2010) 739–752
Article history:
Received 14 November 2008
Received in revised form 4 March 2010
Accepted 1 April 2010
Political ecology
Through the case of the salmon aquaculture sector in Chile, the risks involved in the development of a
non-traditional export sector are reviewed, in order to point to failings (lessons not learned) and
opportunities (lessons learned, new plans), and the changing scales of stakeholder interactions. In
particular the paper highlights the ways in which sustainability considerations have gained ground in
terms of evaluating sectoral development and what is expected from this development. These
considerations have emerged as a result of the increasing globalisation of the sector, through investment,
exports and international ‘attention’ from an increasingly diverse set of stakeholders. These
sustainability considerations have generated a range of conflicts linked to these diverse actors. The
actors are local, national and global, operating through alli ances to bring pressure on others. The conflicts
relate to environmental quality, foreign direct investment (FDI), local socio-economic development,
regional development, national economic strategies, and new globalised issues relating to the
production and consumption of foodstuffs. The contemporary panorama in the sector is significantly
different from the early origins in the 1980s under the dictatorship – the period of ‘the socio-ecological
silence’ – also different from the 1990s period of economic expansion – ‘the economic imperative’. Over
the past twenty-five years, the Chilean aquaculture sector has evolved from experimental production to
a major global industry. Regulatory frameworks and civil society awareness and mobilisation have
struggled to ‘catch up’ with the dynamism of the sector, however the gap has reduced and the future of
the sector within the contemporary context of ‘glocal’ sustainability is now under the microscope: the
‘sustainable globalisation perspective’. The collapse of the sector during the period 2008–2010 as a
consequence of the ISA virus is a key moment with production severely diminished. The way out of the
crisis, via new legislation and inspection regimes, will create a new s tructure of aquaculture governance.
Nevertheless, the crisis marks a turning point in the industry, revealing the weaknesses built into the
former productive system.
ß2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +56 2 3545519.
E-mail addresses: (J.R. Barton),
(A. Fløysand).
This paper is based on research supported by the Norwegian Research Council:
The Spatial Embeddedness of Foreign Direct Investment (
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production crisis. It also characterises a longer-term trajectory of
globalisation relating to sustainable development issues that now
challenges a traditionally dominant productivist export develop-
ment paradigm. These new challenges are not specific to this sector
and this country; they are instead part of a broader globalised
phenomenon whereby diverse actors are involved in debates over
the sustainability of production and consumption regimes that link
multiple locations, local socio-economies and ecosystems.
The current phase of globalisation is closely linked to later
twentieth century liberalisation processes. These processes have
provided new spaces for capital accumulation for larger transna-
tional corporations, in particular through investment and trade
flows. However, whereas economic globalisation drove the agenda
from the early 1980s, emphasising an economic imperative to
world development, there is a parallel driver that has gained
ground over time and leads to a questioning of this economic
imperative and the impacts that it generates. While the former is
generated principally by states and firms, the latter is generated by
diverse stakeholder groups and international organisations (mul-
tilateral and bilateral). At different points, these evolving
trajectories overlap, and this where social, environmental and
economic concerns are engaged with in an integral way. This space
of engagement is the debate about more sustainable development
and the decision-making processes that need to accompany it:
governance for sustainability. What is particularly significant is the
role of glocalisation processes, or the continuous transformations
in scalar configurations due to competing governance regimes,
which Swyngedouw (2004) terms scales of regulation and scales of
networks. This scalar shift, across sub- and supra-national levels,
lies at the heart of globalisation and it is within these glocalised
spaces that different actors operate through market-based,
regulatory-based, and issue-based alliances. This scalar shift
provides the backdrop for this paper.
The essence of this article can be stated as follows. Contempo-
rary economic globalisation has driven the integration of diverse
local and regional spaces and places into the global economy in
recent decades, which in most cases has led to positive economic
outcomes for firms (capital accumulation) and states (public
revenues and employment creation). The role of foreign direct
investment and increased levels of goods and services trade have
been central to this process, although not without reservations
(Machinea and Vera, 2006). This is one, dominant form of
globalisation whose meaning is shared by most observers:
space–time compression driven by capital accumulation (see
Murray, 2006 for definitions around this conceptual core).
However, over the past decade in particular, there has been rising
concern for the social and environmental impacts generated by
these investments and export-oriented trade regimes where
production takes place, and along the first links of the value chain
(Chudnovsky and Lo
´pez, 2002); many of these locations are to be
found in what has been regarded as the ‘resource periphery’ of semi-
peripheral and peripheral economies; Chile is one such resource
periphery (see Hayter et al., 2003; Barton et al., 2007, 2008). While
many of these social and environmental concerns were circulated
initially at local and regional, sometimes national, levels, they too
have become increasingly globalised through the incorporation of
diverse actors in different places (of production, exchange and
consumption). These new globalised alliances compete with the
economic globalisation alliances in particularly commodity and
product sectors and chains. The discourses and interventions that
follow are based around how more sustainable development can be
generated and reveal fundamental differences between these broad
alliances, with multiple variations along this spectrum.
The trajectory of each sector or product in terms of globalisa-
tion, therefore, can be explained in terms of: a first phase of
economic globalisation driven by investment and trade (a local
production sector ‘goes global’); a second phase of rising
contestation by diverse local groups who generate alliances with
sympathetic international actors and seek changes in regulatory
regimes and firm practises (the globalisation of a critical
discourse); and finally a phase of more sustainable globalisation
whereby social and environmental concerns are reviewed and
understood within the economic framework and not separate from
it. The final phase is a product of a changed governance regime in
terms of the sector, which can be termed governance for
sustainability. The shifts between phases are not path dependent.
They may be driven by the consequences of different political
constellations, or by specific events, e.g. a collapse in commodity
prices, the substitution of a product in specific chains, or a sanitary
or phytosanitary crisis.
2. Political ecology and the centrality of governance
The crisis in capture fisheries, that deepened during the last
quarter of the twentieth century (FAO, 2004), has given rise to a
significant increase in fish farming and the aquaculture of diverse
molluscs, fishes and algae for human consumption (Doumenge,
1986; Barton and Staniford, 1998). As a productive sector,
aquaculture has now claimed a significant role in many developing
countries, such as Chile, Ecuador, the Philippines and Thailand. In
most cases, its recent growth has been linked to export-oriented
development strategies rather than domestic consumption.
Geographies of aquaculture have also risen alongside this
development trajectory, tracing new investment and production
opportunities for domestic capital and FDI, questioning land use
and coastal management arrangements for aquaculture and
related activities, and addressing the sustainability of this new
opportunity for local and regional development; the case of Chile is
emblematic in this sense (Barton, 1998). Among the many serious
concerns that have been raised is the capture fisheries input into
salmon aquaculture where conversion ratios are in the order of
2.6–3.3 kg of capture fish to 1 kg of salmon (Deutsch et al., 2007).
Other concerns relate to changes in local livelihoods and cultures,
the degradation of specific ecosystems, and the degree of spatial
embeddedness of domestic and international capital, technologies
and practices.
In the face of problems in traditional agriculture and capture
fisheries, aquaculture has provided a new focus of attention for
production research and planning in many areas. The high returns
for investors in shrimp farming and fin-fish aquaculture have
placed the sector above many competing activities in rural areas
during the 1990s and 2000s in different locations in developing
countries. The products are not the traditional low-value
commodities emerging from these economies, but high value
products that fetch higher per unit prices in specific sectors of
higher income economies; the falling international prices for
shrimp and salmon over the long term bear witness to this rise in
production in developing economies as more production sites
come ‘on-line’ and enter export markets.
While the benefits generated from new investment opportu-
nities, new development projects in rural (most often the poorest)
areas, and growing exports of high value products signalled a new
dawn for many development economists and planners, the very
nature of this sector and its production–consumption dynamic has
generated its own brake. This brake is linked to older debates about
development strategies and their sustainability (carrying capacity,
the precautionary principle, limits to growth), in terms of socio-
economic relations and environmental impacts, tied to governance
regimes at different scales.
Political ecology, as a field of academic and activist engagement,
has followed these debates and the diverse ‘voices’ and discourses
that have emerged to pursue, and to criticise, different production
J.R. Barton, A. Fløysand / Global Environmental Change 20 (2010) 739–752
strategies. The basis of political ecology approaches is the
recognition that environmental change is the outcome of socio-
institutional interactions and decision-making processes. As such,
rather than focusing on the object of change itself – ecosystems
and resources – the focus should be the subjects that drive these
changes and the ways in which – through discourse and use of
science, social relations and alliances, strategies and actions –
these social actors are able to shape their environments in specific
ways (see Blaikie, 1985, 1999; Forsyth, 2003). Inevitably, these
changes often lead to interest group conflicts. It is interest groups
that enter into alliances to pursue specific strategies, increasingly
through globalised networks rather then locals and regional ones.
Consequently, conflict avoidance, negotiation and resolution lie at
the heart of the political ecology approach (Rauschmayer and
Wittmer, 2006) and its relevance to economic globalisation as
sustainable development. The particular perspective that dom-
inates most political ecology writing is that of social and
environmental justice, as Ray Bryant (2004: 808) points out:
First of all, it is clear that despite their many intellectual and
ideological differences, the various strands of political ecology
share a basic radical ethical position. Crudely put, that position
may be defined as one that privileges the rights and concerns
(often livelihood-based) of the poor over those of powerful
political and economic elites even as it insists that peoples and
environments be seen in an integrated fashion.
Since political ecology as a conceptual framework focuses
strongly on the role of actors and how political decision-making
and actions influence environmental transformations, there are
strong overlaps with the sustainable development agenda
generated during the 1980s by the IUCN (1980) and the World
Commission for Environment and Development (1987) (see
Adams, 2001). Although much of the political ecology literature
is oriented towards discussions of natural resource uses and the
conflicts that may ensue (Peat and Watts, 1996; Bryant and Bailey,
1997; Robbins, 2004), it is clear that the issue of sustainable
development underpins most of these analyses, although it does
not always follow the same logic as the WCED report, the IUCN or
UN organisations.
Most work engages with socio-economic development and
environmental change in an integrated way, and views these
changes in terms of interests and strategies that are adopted to
engage with other actors. In this sense, the political ecology
framework and its emphasis on political action and interaction is a
suitable tool for understanding the sustainable development
implications of different local and regional experiences within
an increasingly glocalised world. The case of Chilean salmon
aquaculture is no exception and similar aquaculture experiences
can be seen in political ecology approaches to shrimp aquaculture
in Honduras, Mexico and Indonesia (Dewalt et al., 1996; Cruz
Torres, 2000; Armitage, 2002).
The role of diverse actors, their discursive narratives and their
strategies and actions in achieving their interest-related goals, is
therefore central to a political ecology analysis. There is also a
social and environmental justice dimension to the analysis, which
both fits with the equity aspects of the sustainable development
agenda, as well as with a more radical approach to contemporary
political economy (Martinez Alier, 1994). Although the extraction
of renewable or non-renewable resources is the objective or source
of most interest group conflicts, it is these conflicts themselves that
should be regarded as being at the centre of the analysis, rather
than the environment per se. As such, environmental and social
conflicts that lie within social and environmental justice issues are
the pivotal aspects that have to be approached critically. As
Sabatini (1997) correctly frames this situation, we are effectively
engaging with ‘socio-environmental conflicts’, rather than either
‘social’ or ‘environmental’ in a fragmented way. The ways in which
conflicts can be avoided, negotiated and resolved is central to any
understanding of political ecology within a specific setting. It is
from this starting point that the Chilean salmon aquaculture
experience can be explored.
As contemporary globalisation highlights food networks as an
increasingly important symbol of twenty-first century exchanges
(see Goodman and Watts, 1997), these production strategies, and
their indivisible counterpart – consumption strategies – have been
tracked and traced more clearly in order to open up ethical
questions about responsibilities and rights aligned with the space–
time compression of global networks of information, goods,
finance and culture. Whereas economic geography could focus
on regional innovation systems and diverse production regimes
until the 1990s with little attention to the sustainability
dimensions of these systems – beyond productivity, innovation,
basic labour considerations and balance sheets – the globalisation
of production–consumption dynamics has given rise to new
challenges along the food chain, product chain, or value chain
(Gereffi and Korzeniewicz, 1994; Humphrey and Schmitz, 2001;
Dolan and Humphrey, 2000). These challenges relate to the rise of
what can be defined as sustainability conflicts, the very essence of
political ecology, in that these address the complex inter-relations
between capital, labour, nature and related governance regimes in
given, connected spaces, from the highly localised production sites
(ponds, cages) to more diffuse supermarket shelves, kitchens and
restaurants (Phyne and Mansilla, 2003). Although this is nothing
new, especially for the higher value goods of the turn of the
millennium (that can be compared to other highly valued food
stuffs of earlier generations, such as tea and bananas), what is new
is how conflicts associated with sustainability are generated and
pursued, and how outcomes are being influenced by new alliances
of actors which bring pressure to bear on firms and governments
through globalised networks.
The case of salmon aquaculture in Chile is one among many
similar aquaculture growth experiences over the past two decades.
It is similar to other cases in that simplified ‘win-win’ scenarios are
rarely realised, also that increasing attention from consumers,
competitors and ethical pressure groups (e.g. environmental NGOs,
consumer groups, development organisations) has changed what
were conventionally conceived of as ‘production activities
generating local and national development’ as focal points for
debates over broader development strategies, and how more
sustainable development can be generated over time.
Rather than an analysis purely of the diverse claims about the
impacts generated by salmon aquaculture in Chile, both for and
against, this paper seeks to reveal the trajectory of what was
conceived as a non-traditional export activity with significant
comparative advantages, into a sector that has become situated by
different actors within the global food network, uniting stake-
holders through interest groups across geographical spaces into
debates about development, played out through defences and
criticisms of a food chain that links Chile’s rural poor with salmon
consumers in the US, Japan and the EU. This siting of the sector
within a global production–consumption dynamic is what has
been sought by producers since the early 1980s, however it has
also revealed a critical engagement with diverse groups that has
increasingly empowered local organisations and politicised
environmental and labour conflicts – sustainability conflicts – to
a degree that changes the political make-up of the production
The paper is organised in four sections. The first provides an
overview of the rise of salmon aquaculture from the early 1980s,
highlighting the economic imperative of export-oriented produc-
tion and new regional development opportunities. The second
J.R. Barton, A. Fløysand / Global Environmental Change 20 (2010) 739–752
critiques the claims and aspirations apparent in the discourses of
diverse actors associated with the sector in Chile since the early
1990s, and the power relation that emerged during the 1990s in
terms of impacts and consequences. The third focuses on the rising
globalisation of groups associated with the questioning of the
sustainability of aquaculture operations, through alliances and use
of the very economic globalisation apparatus that has benefited
producers. Finally, the need for a governance regime capable of
managing this new power relation generated by rising sustain-
ability is discussed, noting the changing relationship between
capital, labour and nature produced by the globalisation of
alliances and the sophistication of resources employed by actors
to shape markets and influence decision-makers. In many ways
this case engages with Jordan’s (2008) call for more empirical work
within the conceptual ‘messiness’ that is governance and sustain-
able development.
The political ecology argument that binds the article together
and that can be evaluated with similar aquaculture experiences in
different developing economies is as follows. The liberalisation
policies of the 1980s – or 1970s in the case of Chile under General
Pinochet – gave rise to a wave of investments to, and exports from
developing countries (highly concentrated for the most part in
what would later become known in financial circles as the
‘emerging markets’). The governance systems that oversaw the
development of old and new export-oriented sectors were, for the
most part, part of a neoliberal alliance of political class (or
authoritarian regime) and transnational and domestic economic
groups. Dominant governance regimes favoured production –
capital – over labour and nature, leading to high growth rates in
these sectors at the expense of labour (fewer safeguards, greater
flexibility) and nature (reduction in environmental quality and
The globalisation of civil society networks that have brought
different production–consumption dynamics to global attention –
coffee, textiles and garments, among others – now present a
challenge to the existing governance regimes, questioning their
neoliberal economic development orientation, in particular their
sustainability, and using the same resources generated by the
initial process of economic globalisation: markets, information and
strategic alliances. It is in this way that new governance regimes
can have sustainable development as their raison detre, and are
capable of meshing the four criteria of governance for sustainabil-
ity (Adger et al., 2003): economic efficiency, environmental
effectiveness, equity, and political legitimacy.
3. Salmon aquaculture in Chile, 1982–2010
Salmon aquaculture was one of several non-traditional export
sectors promoted from the late 1970s in order to diversify the
Chilean economy away from its traditional dependence on copper
exports, the typical commodity dependence characteristic of Latin
American economic history. The relative success of these new
sectors can be seen in terms of their contribution to the current
national export profile. Apart from salmon aquaculture, the other
relevant sectors are fruit, wine and wood products. These were all
encouraged through diverse public and private sector initiatives,
capitalising on existing investments or generating new ones. In the
case of salmon aquaculture, the initiative was led by international
development assistance by the Japanese development agency(JICA)
alongside the national innovation quango, Fundacio
´n Chile (Men-
dez, 1994; Camus and Jaksic, 2009). These projects gave rise to the
creation of the first modern salmon aquaculture firm in the country
in the late 1970s. Having been successful in early trials, new
investments followed swiftly on its heels due to the conditions
offered by the Chilean fjord landscape to the south of the country.
These conditions included protected locations for seawater opera-
tions, freshwater locations for hatching and growing-on, and good
water quality and temperature ranges (Lindbergh, 1993).
Given the counter-seasonal advantages offered by Chilean
harvesting times compared to the principal producing nations of
Norway, Scotland, Canada and the USA in the northern hemi-
sphere, much of the early investment was international. Never-
theless, domestic investment followed in its path and became
increasingly significant in the sector through the 1990s. Although
multinational investment has been highly influential in the Chilean
sector, it is domestic investment that dominates given the larger
number of medium and smaller-size firms.
Following the severe economic downturn in Chile in the early
1980s, which led to a banking crisis and an eruption of social unrest
against the dictatorship and the economic recession, much store
was put by the new NTAX (non-traditional agricultural exports) to
support the export-oriented economy in emerging from its trough
(Montero, 1997; Meller and Sa
´ez, 1997). This economic imperative,
within a context of military dictatorship, was highly relevant to the
early beginnings of the sector, from the early 1980s until the
transition to democracy in 1990 (Martı
´nez and Diaz, 1996).
The free-market model was founded upon high levels of private
sector manoeuvrability and low levels of government regulation.
Regulatory systems in diverse areas of the economy were
effectively oriented towards a flexibilisation of the workforce
within a political context of union prohibition. In terms of
environmental regulations, these would not be significant until
1994 when a framework Environmental Law (19.300) was brought
onto the statute books. Since the downturn of the early 1980s was
so severe (surpassed only by the crisis of the 1929–1932 period),
the upturn that followed registered very encouraging growth rates.
This was the case for the economy as a whole and for the
aquaculture sector in particular given its negligible starting point.
The political power exercised by specific firms towards workers
and in the localities where they operated was considerable given
their state backing. New investment flowed in under these
favourable, low regulatory conditions, as production costs under-
cut competitors in the other principal producing nations, as well as
capitalising on counter-seasonability.
A consequence of the high growth rates in the sector, in terms of
investment, site expansion and export volumes and values, gave
rise to the aquaculture sector forming part of what became known
as the Chilean economic ‘miracle’ (see Fig. 1). This miracle was
Fig. 1. Global and Chilean salmon production (Source:SalmonChile, 2007; Revista
Aqua, 2007).
J.R. Barton, A. Fløysand / Global Environmental Change 20 (2010) 739–752
based on these NTAX sectors in particular, alongside traditional
minerals expansion. This economic ‘miracle’, with its roots in
authoritarian labour controls and weak environmental protection,
has been highly criticised by many authors (Quiroga, 1994; Collins
and Lear, 1995; Claude, 1997), yet it remains an important
component of the hegemonic discourse surrounding the transition
to democracy. This period was characterised by strong economic
growth and a ‘socio-ecological silence’ (see Fig. 2). As such, the
salmon aquaculture sector is part and parcel of the dynamism of
the Chilean economy post-recession and was, for some time,
relatively free from criticism, by the state’s regulatory authorities,
by the media, or by domestic or international civil society
The economic imperative gave the sector its raison de
ˆtre, and a
high degree of flexibility in its operations. Although the 1990s
witnessed the gradual (re)introduction of labourand environmental
protection measures under successive democratic administrations,
the political capital in sustaining the ‘miracle’ under democracy led
the economic imperative, and an argument relating to reducing
poverty and overcoming inequality, to dominate in the face of rising
counter-claims; economic growth at this time tended to be
characterised as a trade-off against social and environmental
protection. These counter-claims were in turn a product of the
success of the sector and its export performance, leading to rising
national and international oversight of its operations. This oversight
would prove to counter-balance the economicimperative argument
with different discourses. No longer would the sector have the
comfort and public institutional support that it had enjoyed during
the first decade of its existence. The sectoral response was the
creation of INTESAL (the Salmon Technology Institute) in 1995 with
support from CORFO (the national development corporation);
INTESAL is a salmon producer’s association unit for collaborative
evaluation of impacts, also innovation, in the fields of health and
production, quality and environment.
A continuation of this public–private associativity in the field of
production and related concerns is the CORFO programme on
cleaner production, operated by the National Clean Development
Council from the early 2000s. This programme was designed to
stimulate sectoral responsibility on diverse environmental issues at
the firm and plant levels, through Clean Production Agreements
(APLs: Acuerdos de Produccio
´n Limpia). The salmon aquaculture
sector, like the northern Chilean shellfish sector, was one of the
earliest participants. The programme established best practice in
environmental techniques and sought firm certification through
auditing following an implementation period.The sector signed the
Clean Production Agreement with the National Clean Production
Council in 2002 and this culminated in 2005 with the application of
46 action points(in particular relating to solid wasteand wastewater
management) and relatively high levels of attainment among the 48
firms involved (Consejo Nacional de Produccio
´n Limpia, 2002); 16
firms involving 129 production sites ultimately fulfilled the
established goals (Consejo Nacional de Produccio
´n Limpia, 2008).
Many firms are now linking labour, environmental and sanitary
measures within an integrated management system known as
SIGES. The environmental management logic of voluntary changes
and certification has predominated in Chilean institutional circles
more generally, however the high level of certification would prove
insufficient in the face of the ISA virus that took hold in 2007.
The economic imperative argument would be questioned
principally by political ecology and wider radical political economy
arguments relating to local and regional development. These
would provide the basis for the conflicts relating to the sector that
have emerged over the past decade.
4. Regional and local impacts: claims and aspirations
There is no question that the ideal aquaculture conditions to be
found in the Regio
´n de los Lagos in southern Chile were vital to
regional development from the early 1980s. The region had been
experiencing outward migration, high levels of under- and
unemployment, and had witnessed the stagnation of its traditional
foodstuffs and capture fisheries sectors (Grenier, 1984). The
activities relating to the aquaculture sector, both directly and
indirectly in transport, feed, diving and equipment firms, led to an
economic revival of the region and new employment opportunities
on cage sites and in processing. Undoubtedly, the first decade of
growth marked a contrast with the previous decades of decline.
However, expectations relating to the sector have changed over
time and have led to rising criticism, social organisation (through
unions for example) and diverse collaborations between firms,
politicians, state agencies, NGOs, and community-based organisa-
tions. The honeymoon period driven by the economic imperative
came to an end, and a new political landscape has emerged in
recent years. This political landscape has given rise to claims and
Fig. 2. Rising globalised engagement in Chilean aquaculture.
J.R. Barton, A. Fløysand / Global Environmental Change 20 (2010) 739–752
aspirations that are different from those of the early 1980s under
dictatorship and impoverishment. It is a landscape in which the
principal actors of the 1980s – firms, state and workers – are now
accompanied by a broader range of interests and resources both in
support of the sector, and critical of it.
The Regio
´n de los Lagos has been the principal recipient region
of aquaculture investment and production in Chile. However, the
lack of suitable sites has given rise to growth in the Regio
´n de
´n and the Regio
´n de Magallanes further south, despite their
geographical disadvantages. These disadvantages relate to the
need to access production units from the sea due to poor terrestrial
infrastructure, and the consequent logistical problems in getting
fish to processing plants for freezing, or fresh fish to Puerto Montt
or Punta Arenas airports and then on to their destinations. The
´n de los Lagos has been the region most transformed by the
sector to date however. This can be seen in economic data and in
terms of the urbanisation of the city of Puerto Montt where much
of the activity is headquarted or supplied from; Puerto Montt is the
city that experienced the highest urbanisation rate during the
inter-censal period 1992–2002.
While the role of salmon aquaculture in this regional
regeneration is unquestionable, the debate of the sustainability
of this new economic dependence is what has given rise to the
claims and counter-claims associated with sectoral conflicts which
have also changed in substance over the years (see Fig. 3). The
region has experienced ‘boom and bust’ cycles previously relating
to capture fisheries and forestry during the 1970s. Promoted by the
dictatorship, these sectors were designed to regenerate the region
but both were unsuccessful, such as the Japanese Golden Spring
forestry project in Chiloe
´, and the expansion of artisanal fisheries
capacity in the area (Schurman, 1996). The ways in which these
lessons from the past have been learned and incorporated into
current management of the salmon aquaculture boom are unclear
however (see Buschmann, 2002).
The risk over the sector collapsing at some point was evident
from experiences in other locations, e.g. the Norwegian sector
collapse in the early 1990s (Holm and Jentoft, 1996), and the
disease outbreak in Scotland in the late 1990s that brought the
sector close to the brink. This uncertainty in home countries has
also been a trigger for increased foreign investment in Chile where
low disease rates, available sites and weak regulation initially
provided incentives for TNCs (Foreign Investment Committee,
2006, 2007; Fløysand et al., 2005; Phyne et al., 2006). To avoid a
‘bust’ scenario, particularly with regards to disease outbreaks and
high mortalities, a strict regulatory regime was required. This
regime was slow to be implemented although it was created in the
fisheries and aquaculture legislation which dates from 1991 and
was strengthened in environmental terms through the Environ-
mental Impact Assessment System operating from 1997, and the
later regulations on environmental controls (RAMA) and sanitary
controls (RESA) in aquaculture from 2001. Rather than the
legislation and regulations in and of themselves, it is specifically
the framework of regulatory monitoring and assessment that was
persistently weak. This is a hang-over from the decade of the
economic imperative when the regulatory apparatus was weak
and lacked power relative to the dynamism of this sector and its
role in national economic recovery; the risks involved have come
to the fore in the infectious salmon anaemia (ISA) virus outbreak
and the related crisis in the sector and in the areas where
production and processing is concentrated.
5. From local opposition to global alliances
What is clear during the 1982–2010 period is the way in which
the dynamism of the aquaculture sector has given rise to its
globalisation in terms of investment and exports, as well as a
subsequent globalisation of issues and activities relating to
political ecology and radical local political economy (see Fig. 4).
While the two phases, relating to the socio-ecological silence and
economic imperative, were conducted with little critical apprecia-
tion, the latest has become a new challenge for the sector. By
looking at the evolution of the sector as a set of key alliances or
social linkages, it is possible to track this evolution and see how the
issues relating to the sector have opened up to diverse domestic
and international actors (Fig. 5).
During the 1980s, the dictatorship meant that there was little
opposition of any political or civil nature. However, the protests
against the dictatorship from the early 1980s, coinciding with the
economic crisis, were the beginnings of the process that would lead
to a reconstitution of political groups within a coalition that would
pressurise for a plebiscite in 1988; this plebiscite gave rise to
elections in 1989 that returned the democratic president, Patricio
Aylwin, defeating the Pinochet-backed right-winger Herna
´n Bu
(Barton, 1999, 2002). In terms of environmental activism, there was
little overt criticism of the different sectors driving the economy.
Despite this, the early 1990s would lead to swift changes in
environmental institutionality with the approval of the Environ-
ment Law in 1994, propelled by the Rio Conference on Environment
and Development in 1992. At the same time, new environmental
NGOs were being established and were finding a voice in political
and civil circles. It wasat this time that salmon aquaculture began to
be put under the spotlight although much of the concern was being
generated from within the sector itself due to the challenges of
combating the salmon rickettsia (SRS) disease which was giving rise
to high mortality levels in Chilean production. Most of the
environmental NGOs were more concerned with the mining and
forestry sectors than with aquaculture, in which environmental
activists had less knowledge and less international support and
interest. This situation would gradually change into the late 1990s
with increased awareness of the impacts of the sector, generated
from academic and non-governmental sources.
At the same time, local communities were also coming to terms
with the profound changes that were taking place in their
surroundings and in their livelihoods; the interface between
large-scale TNC investment in an export-oriented industry and a
distinctive local island culture with a tradition of low human
development characteristics was complex, as was the engagement
between foreign investors and domestic producers and suppliers in
terms of localised business behaviour and new social fields (see
Fløysand and Jakobsen, 2002). The island of Chiloe
´was trans-
formed during the decade of the 1990s as its protected eastern
fjords were targeted as optimal marine production sites. By the
mid-1990s, the sector’s development was still managed through
close links between the aquaculture department of Sernapesca
(which authorised production permits and regulated them), the
Navy (which provided site permits), and the firms through their
association, which was established in 1986 and now represents
producers which generate over 90% of exports (SalmonChile,
2008a); at this time, salmonid export trade began to rise
dramatically: export values rose from $159 million in 1991 to
$964 million in 2001 (SalmonChile, 2008b). These phases, from the
early beginnings of the sector in the 1980s, through rapid
expansion during the early and middle years of the 1990s, are
those of socio-ecological silence and the economic imperative.
While economic liberalisation facilitated market openings, there
was little questioning of Chilean production methods, labour
conditions or environmental impacts. This was due to the low
levels of civil society organisation in this field given the
authoritarian period, also to the fact that – as in Norway, Scotland
and Canada – production and processing was taking place some
distance from the main centres of civil society organisation and
J.R. Barton, A. Fløysand / Global Environmental Change 20 (2010) 739–752
Given that aquaculture was deemed to be vital to the economic
recovery from the early 1980s, there was also little research taking
place that was critical of the sector. Research was principally
organised around productive aspects of the sector, such as disease
control, feed development and management, genetic adaptation,
and diverse associated technologies. Training of new technicians
and professionals in the field was also an opportunity for different
academic institutions, in both Santiago and in the region through
the Universidad de los Lagos. Funding for research in fields relating
to production issues would also be forthcoming through Conicyt
(the national research council) and CORFO (the national develop-
ment corporation).
Fig. 3. Map of the Region de los Lagos (Source: Authors).
J.R. Barton, A. Fløysand / Global Environmental Change 20 (2010) 739–752
From the mid-1990s the panorama began to change slowly as
Chile became a leading competitor in international salmon
production and exports. The awareness of diverse stakeholders
outside Chileraised its profile and led to a questioning of practices in
the sector. The most high profile of these criticisms would be
generated by US producers in their accusation of dumping against
Chilean producers, filed in 1998 by the US Departmentof Commerce.
If a date can be established that defines the globalisation of
production, it is probably when exports topped the 100 million
tonnes barrier in 1996—this was a landmark for the sector, having
surpassed Scotland as the second largest producer in 1992;
Norway continues to lead world production. In terms of critical
opposition to the sector, the date of the dumping accusation can be
fixed as a further landmark. The accusation both raised the profile
of Chilean production operations as well as placing the country in
the midst of an international discussion relating to the sustain-
ability of the sector, which had arisen in the other major producing
countries as a consequence of NGO pressure (see Fig. 6). It is a
Fig. 4. Issues and research agenda in aquaculture.
Fig. 5. Mapping of stakeholder engagement.
J.R. Barton, A. Fløysand / Global Environmental Change 20 (2010) 739–752
defining moment that effectively ends the ‘economic imperative’
phase of low regulation and high economic returns that had
persisted since the return to democracy.
It was clear by the later 1990s that there was growing capacity
in international NGOs to tackle problems relating to the sector. In
terms of aquaculture, it was the shrimp farming sector that
received the greatest NGO mobilisation due to the destruction of
mangrove forests in Asia and the Americas, with consequent
problems of salination, loss of fish nurseries, loss of a range of
environmental services (such as storm protection) and loss of
biodiversity; the role of the Mangrove Action Project – operating
since 1992 – is important in this regard, raising the profile of these
issues. Since the location of salmon production in temperate
latitudes did not have such clear-cut environmental impacts (due
to a lack of scientific research into benthic layer impacts, diseases,
and farmed fish ‘escapees’ impacts on wild fish), the criticism was
generated in a different way and with different arguments.
Examples of early NGO pressures on production in Scotland and
Canada came from Friends of the Earth Scotland, also the Friends of
Clayoquot Sound respectively. More recently, these individual
NGO efforts at local levels have been consolidated within the
overarching structure of the Pure Salmon Campaign. The Pure
Salmon Campaign (an offshoot of the US National Environmental
Trust) was established in the mid-2000s as a coordinating body for
NGO activities in different countries. Through its goals of improved
management of production externalities, including genetic adap-
tation, impacts on wild species, use of antibiotics and labour
conditions, it brings together common concerns among different
It has used its campaigns to press for sustainable practices and
stakeholder involvement; for example, by bringing Chilean labour
unionists to the shareholder meeting of Marine Harvest in Norway
in 2009 where much of the activity was concerned with drawing
media attention to the plight of laid-off workers and the
unsustainability of dominant production practices. In the wake
of the crisis, civil society actors have also gained access to national-
level fora for discussing regulatory change. Worker representatives
were invited in March 2009 to speak to Congress about the effects
of the crisis. Local workers have also taken advantage of new
spaces, both by striking at industry headquarters in Puerto Montt,
and by forming a new organisation, FETRASAL, to articulate
workers’ demands. Jorge Barrı
´a, the chairman of the established
trade union FETRASAL, said in an interview:
Exactly, due to the problems that exist, this organisation is born.
Because today the workers have to take initiatives, the
organisations have to make their propositions, and it is
demanded by chairmen that we should act and interact with
the government and with the firms, and should definitely
search for solutions to this crisis. First, there is the crisis of the
ISA, which will lead to the closure of several companies and the
firing of numerous workers, and in addition there is the
international financial crisis, and because of this, the workers
ought to have a voice that allows them to make claims to the
Government and to work with the employers. (Translated from
OLACH, 2009)
Together, these civil society initiatives reveal the new strategies
adopted by NGOs, which link presence in the communities,
networks across scale including NGOs with strong international
presence (e.g. Oxfam), and media campaigns nationally and
internationally. These strategies have provided new spaces for
questioning the sustainability of the aquaculture sector and have
opened spaces of engagement for local stakeholders and civil
society networks to influence new legislation and to draw
attention to unsustainable practices. The crisis has brought an
urgency and impetus to the organisational initiatives taken shortly
before the outbreak and has provided a discursive legitimacy for its
claims and, at least temporary, institutional channels through
which to articulate these claims.
In the Chilean case, the emergence of opposition to the salmon
sector has been relatively recent also. The principal environmental
organisations operating during the mid-1990s and late 1990s were
focused on forestry and mining in particular, also new hydroelec-
tric dam projects and urban contamination. The book El Tigre sin
Selva published by the NGO Instituto de Ecologia Politica (Quiroga,
1994) makes only a half page reference to aquaculture in its 473
pages, while the publication by the NGO Chile Sustentable: Chile
Sustentable: propuesta ciudadana para el cambio, as late as 2003 still
only refers to the sector in passing, principally in its territorial
analysis of transformations in Chiloe
´. The Chilean NGOs begin to
tackle the sector more effectively from the early 2000s when the
NGOs Fundacio
´n Terram (established 1997) and Ecoceanos
(established 1998) dedicate specific programmes to this activity.
For Oceana, as an international NGO committed to maritime issues,
this is a logical progression and the organisation seeks a
moratorium on salmon production until impacts are better
evaluated and mitigated (Gutie
´rrez, 2005). However, Terram
selects this sector alongside its other programmes (Environment,
Natural Resources, Economy and Globalisation) as a priority, being
the only sector specific programme (see Fundacio
´n Terram, 2001,
2006a,b, 2007). This has culminated in two significant activities
since 2006.
The first was the creation of OLACH – the labour and
environment observatory of Chiloe
´– in July 2006, a joint venture
between Terram, Oxfam and other Chilean NGOs (CENDA and
Canelo de Nos) in association with the national trade union
confederation (CUT). The second, which dovetails with this
Observatory, is the media campaign launched in January 2008
by Oxfam and Terram: ‘Sin Miedo Contra la Corriente’ (Fearless
against the Current) (Images 1 and 2). This campaign was aimed at
Fig. 6. Globalised stakeholder engagement.
Image 1. From the ‘Sin Miedo contra La Corriente’ campaign of Oxfam-Terram.
J.R. Barton, A. Fløysand / Global Environmental Change 20 (2010) 739–752
raising awareness of the industry and its impacts among the
Chilean public, and used powerful images to do so. Alongside a
campaign by the organisation ‘Patagonia Sin Represas’ (‘Patagonia
Without Dams’, campaigning against the construction of new
hydroelectric installations in the Ayse
´n Region; Image 3), it reveals
the new high profile media strategies adopted by global alliances
against specific projects and sectors since 2007. A further media
impact was generated by the documentary ‘Ovas de Oro’ (Golden
Eggs, Kithano Films) directed by Anahı
´Johansen and Manuel
´lez. Screened for the first time in October 2005, the film won
two film festivals in 2006 (Valparaiso, Chile and Goias, Brazil) and
would be shown in Norway in early 2007; the Norwegian firm
Mainstream was heavily criticised for its practices in the film.
What can be seen clearly in these examples is the way in which
organisations are increasingly ‘jumping scale’ to leverage support
for their critical narratives and empower themselves in the process
(Haarstad and Fløysand, 2007); this closely approximates to what
Bulkeley (2005) terms a configuration of the ‘new spatial grammar’
of environmental governance, as networks and different forms of
political scaling challenge conventional hierarchies of territorial
The rising globalisation of these critical NGO organisations and
changing campaign instruments, e.g. localisation of OLACH on
´, and the more effective use of mass communications media,
gave rise to a shift in scale and alliances at precisely the time that
salmon workers were striking at the firms Mainstream and
AquaChile in 2007. Labour and environmental conflicts were
clearly coming to a head at this time as conventional practices
within the sector came under more intense scrutiny. Although
anecdotal, the visit of Prince Haakon of Norway to Chile in January
2008 was intended to include a visit to aquaculture plants in
Puerto Montt (AKVA Group and Marine Harvest). However, this
visit south was curtailed at the last minute given the labour unrest
and concerns for the Prince’s security (Aftenposten, 25 January
6. Awareness and the need for conflict resolution: a crisis of
The evolution of diverse conflicts relating to the sector, as
highlighted in the previous section, has given rise to broader
discussions relating to governance. This is the outcome of any
situation from a political ecology perspective. The ability to bring
diverse stakeholders together and to avoid conflict, as well as being
able to secure stronger sustainability outcomes acceptable to
different interests, is the test of effective governance. Governance,
as opposed to government, suggests that this is a multi-
stakeholder scenario whereby different actors have different
responsibilities. The ‘economic imperative’ has to be weighed
against social and environmental variables within this governance
regime, and not only for short-term solutions but rather for longer-
term, more sustainable development outcomes.
The globalisation of the sector in terms of investment, exports
and, more recently, environmental and social mobilisation of more
critical positions, has given rise to greater interest in, and attention
to the governance regime that is currently in place and that is
charged with oversight of the sector. For twenty years, until the
mid-2000s, two positions formed the basis of the governance
regime. The first position related to the role of the state. The state
has the exclusive authority to regulate economic sectors through
social, environmental and financial inspection agencies. The
second related to the firms in the private sector. This position
affirms that firms are rational actors and that it is in their interests
to protect the sector and maintain its growth, therefore they are
effective self-regulators.
This public–private governance regime has been severely
eroded during the 2000s by the evolving globalisation of the
product and criticisms of the sector. As a domestic regime driven
by the firms through their association SalmonChile, alongside the
relevant government agencies which in turn were charged with
promoting the sector, e.g. the National Fisheries Service—
Sernapesca (a service of the Ministry of Economics), a ‘pro-growth’
development strategy for the sector was established. Within this
strategy there was little or no space for self-criticism or reflection
on the weaker aspects of the sector. These would be identified and
highlighted not by the sector itself but by a range of other actors,
previously not included within the governance regime.
These other actors include buyers and consumers in export
markets, foreign governments, multilateral institutions, and
international NGOs. Effectively, they have generated direct and
indirect influences in the governance regime since they bring
different pressures to bear on the pre-existing actors: the firms and
production-oriented government departments. One important
example of this is the impact generated by the publication of
the OECD Chile environmental performance report in 2005 (a joint
publication of the OECD and CEPAL, the UN’s Economic Commis-
sion for Latin America and the Caribbean). The report has been
significant in shaping the drive towards a new environmental
institutional framework in the country (legislation was passed in
late 2009 that generated a Ministry of Environment, a Superinten-
dency for environmental regulation, and an Environmental
Evaluation Service), but it also pointed to concerns relating to
the salmon aquaculture sector; the environmental assessment
carried out by the Universidad de Chile (Instituto de Asuntos
´blicos) in its ‘State of the Environment’ report is less specific
about the sector, merely highlighting the afore-mentioned
voluntary instruments associated with cleaner production (Uni-
versidad de Chile, 2005). The recommendations of the OECD/CEPAL
were as follows (2005, 29):
To improve environmental and sanitary protection in aquacul-
ture (in relation to eutrophication, salmon escapes, lake ecology
equilibrium, antibiotic use, epidemiological vigilance, eradica-
tion of infectious disease, among others), particularly the
strengthening of capacity to meet norms and regulations.
To apply the ‘polluter pays’ principle in the aquaculture industry
in the context of the Environment Law.
Image 2. From the ‘Sin Miedo contra La Corriente’ campaign of Oxfam-Terram.
Image 3. From the ‘Patagonia sin Represas’ campaign.
J.R. Barton, A. Fløysand / Global Environmental Change 20 (2010) 739–752
To generate a precise plan of coastal zoning of aquaculture; to
adopt integrated environmental management in coastal areas.
In many ways, the increased profile of the sector and the entry
of diverse actors have led to a crisis of governance in the sector.
This crisis is based on a questioning of the efficacy of the
established governance regime, particularly the close collaboration
of Sernapesca and the producers’ association, to the detriment of
other regulatory actors and interested parties. These other actors
include the labour oversight agency of the Ministry of Labour, the
environmental inspection of the national environment agency
(CONAMA), as well as unions, local community groups and
businesses not related directly to the sector (such as tourism).
The best way to highlight these weaknesses is in light of recent
impacts in the sector generated by the ISA virus.
While the 1990s were dominated by concerns relating to the
SRS disease and the mortality rates generated by it, the recent ISA
virus threatened the viability of the sector. The virus has had
impacts in the Norwegian, Canadian and Scottish aquaculture
sectors since the 1980s, yet Chile had been relatively free of the
virus until July 2007 (there was a case in Coho salmon in 2002, but
without further repercussions among the principal species,
Atlantic salmon, see Kibenge et al., 2001). By July 2008, 74
production sites had been quarantined (Sernapesca, 2008). The
disease is related to contaminated discharges from production
processes, also from transmission of the virus on the hulls of well
boats used in the sector; it is also related to the commercialisation
of infected salmonid eggs. Sea lice, another problem in the Chilean
aquaculture sector, can also act as a vector for transmission and
wild fish may also be contaminated in the process (Vagsholm et al.,
In view of experiences in other countries over the past decade,
the weak regulatory response to the threat reveals the generalised
subjugation of the regulatory authorities to the sector, through a
discourse of self-interest and self-assurance on the part of firms.
The former director of Sernapesca Ine
`s Montalva (now manager of
Intesal since September 2008) put it in the following terms in an
interview in the El Mercurio newspaper (5 November 2007): ‘‘There
is a clear campaign that has always chased after the salmon
producers. That they don’t meet standards, that they don’t look
after the environment, that they are invasive. But it is an industry
that has to look after the environment for its own benefit. It is self-
limiting.’’ This view contrasts with a need for a strengthening of the
regulatory regime that was evident by the late 1990s (Barton,
1997, 324):
If the state does not make itself directly responsible for the
maintenance of environmental quality, it can be argued that the
long-term sustainability of the industry may be threatened [. . .]
In the same way that the Scottish and Norwegian industries
received greater state attention and regulation following their
periods of industrial difficulty, Chilean authorities should take
this lesson and adopt a proactive stance with regard to the
health of the industry and its threatened environments.
Without effective direct and indirect regulatory action in the
face of increased disease incidence, chemical treatments and
mortalities, the state may well have to bear the long-term costs
of grave socio-economic repercussions and contaminated
ecosystems in Region X.
The response to the current crisis – which has resulted in
production site quarantine, fish slaughter and divestment by firms,
including lay-offs – gave rise to the formation of a roundtable of
key decision-makers on the issue, which emitted its first
conclusions in September 2008. These conclusions pointed to
the need for improved inspection capacity in Sernapesca, also
better knowledge of carrying capacities of local environments in
order to determine proximity of cages within specific fjords. This
roundtable was chaired by the Minister for Economy, Hugo
Lavados, which reflects the importance of the sector to national
economic development. The outcome of these discussions,
principally through exchanges between the public sector and
the firms led to the design of new legislation to regulate the sector,
which was presented to Congress in 2009.
Based on the findings of the first report of this roundtable group
in August 2008, Lavados declared that: ‘‘the government, through
these efforts, recognises that the salmon sector is a growth motor
in our country and a vital source of employment, principally in the
X, XI and XII Regions, as such it should be developed sustainably,
responsibly in terms of the environment, and coherently in terms
of international standards.’’ (Press release, Ministry of the
Economy, 9 September 2008). There was a clear need to review
sanitary and environmental regulations, also to improve inspec-
tion capacity and finally, to improve wastewater and solid waste
management. In terms of this last point, these were precisely the
highlighted fields of the APL finalised in 2005; it would appear that
this voluntary agreement was inadequate in terms of achieving the
desired risk reduction in this area.
In view of the findings of the Kibenge et al. study, also the Code
of Practice installed following the Scottish crisis relating to ISA in
1998–1999, it is clear that Chilean regulatory authorities were
ineffectual in reducing risk in the sector prior to 2007, despite the
APLs, REMA and RESA. It is evident also that the firms themselves
failed to implement adequate measures in response to similar
impacts experienced previously in different national settings (e.g.
Marine Harvest in Scotland). The impacts have resulted in lost
earnings, lost jobs and virus transmission through marine
ecosystems, affecting farmed and (most likely) wild species also.
The creation of a roundtable on the issue mimics a similar
response to the labour disputes in 2006. These multi-stakeholder
roundtables are not specific to the sector since they have been used
extensively since the Ricardo Lagos Presidency (2000–2006) to
manage issues in the public realm, from human rights violations to
agriculture. In August 2006, a tripartite roundtable including
regional authorities, sectoral authorities, workers and firm
representatives sought to increase dialogue between the stake-
holders following the strikes in the Mainstream and AquaChile
firms (Ministry of Labour, 2006). Two of the conclusions of the
roundtable, which operated in September and October of 2006 are
worth stressing (pp. 8–9):
(b) The productive dynamism and the conquest of new markets
gives rise to sanitary, environmental and labour demands from
importing countries, and it is tremendously important for the
sector and the country that these are met. Effectively, the
growing demands for rising standards by different national and
international social actors provide important and urgent
challenges for the sector. The salmon industry should have
and must guarantee its sustainability over time and increase its
development potential, improving among others, labour
standards, in such a way as to successfully confront the
objective and unfounded criticisms that are made.
(l) We value this roundtable as a real instance for generating a
virtuous circle where participants and stakeholders of the
industry can move towards the future in a constructive and
realistic way in all the relevant areas.
It is evident that these safeguards were not put in place through
appropriate labour, environmental and sanitary controls and
practices. In a now familiar pattern, the crisis has hit hardest in
J.R. Barton, A. Fløysand / Global Environmental Change 20 (2010) 739–752
the worker communities, as some 10,000 workers had lost their
jobs by April 2009.
It is evident that a new governance regime is
required in order to establish a pattern of stronger sustainability
within the sector; it is also evident that this is occurring in
response to labour unrest and the disease crisis. The model of
stronger sustainability that is emerging out of these crises will lead
to a shift beyond the conventional indicators of sectoral perfor-
mance based on the economic imperative (such as productivity,
disease control), into a broader-based appreciation of the sector
and its impacts, both positive and negative. This can be
summarised as a reduction in the sustainability deficit (see
Fig. 7). This will include improved knowledge of the environmental
impacts of the sector, labour conditions and remunerations, and
local development spillovers.
In the face of rising conflicts, between environmental NGOs and
firms, and between workers organisations and firms, the need for
conflict avoidance and resolution also intensifies. This will have to
be constructed within a framework of governance that is both
modern and flexible, with spaces for multiple stakeholder
involvement. The debates are not over whether the sector should
or should not exist, but rather how value is created in the sector,
how it is distributed, and how local impacts are compensated for,
how they are mitigated, and how longer-term development
strategies can be established in order to avoid the ‘boom–bust’
cycles of the past. In other words, more can aquaculture contribute
to how sustainable development at different geographical scales.
For example, Marine Harvest published its first sustainability
report in 2008, a full year after the outbreak of the virus. The report
discloses, reportedly for the first time, detailed statistics on the
company’s antibiotics and energy use (Marine Harvest, 2009).
Through the report we learn that, primarily as a result of lax
Chilean regulations, Marine Harvest (the world’s largest aquacul-
ture company), could use 732 grams of antibiotics per ton of
salmon produced in Chile in 2007 while using only 0.2 g per ton in
Norway (Marine Harvest, 2009). The data for Chile are revealing,
and demonstrate that the production practices of Marine Harvest
are unlikely to become more sustainable overnight. However, the
new reporting procedure of Marine Harvest illustrates how
discourses of sustainability are means through which civil society
organisations can make demands on regulation and production
practices, and against which actual production practices can be
measured and critiqued.
7. Beyond economic development: towards sustainability-
oriented global networks
It is evident that the transition from dictatorship to democracy
has been a long process and that the economic model of the
dictatorship has persisted in different ways. The strong economic
growth from the recovery from the early 1980s downturn led to
the democratic administrations taking over a healthy (in financial
capital terms) export-oriented economy. The NTAX that were
central to this recovery received careful protection by the state
during the dictatorship, in terms of low regulatory environments
and support in promotion. During the 1990s, this way of operating
the economy, with close links between public institutions and
export sectors in particular, remained in place. As a consequence,
labour protection and environmental controls were slow to find
their feet within a new regulatory context of democratic
government. The neoliberal model was maintained and deepened
under democracy, as the ‘economic imperative’ of growth through
exports persisted within the logic of the economic ‘miracle’. This
‘miracle’ had a reverse side however.
The salmon aquaculture sector was carefully groomed by the
state during the 1980s and 1990s, and little criticism emerged from
within the country, bar the activities of a handful of environmental
NGOs. Nevertheless, these criticisms had little impact on the sector
or on the regulatory regime. The principal changes that did take
place were in response to safeguarding the health of the sector in
the face of disease outbreaks, such as the initiatives under the 1991
Fisheries and Aquaculture Law.
It was precisely the globalisation of the sector through
investment and exports, and its relative success, that led to a
globalisation of the criticism of it in terms of its wider
sustainability performance (beyond its economic bottom-line),
and specifically the local and regional impacts that have been
generated. A political ecology assessment of these impacts and the
actors involved point to an ‘opening-up’ of the sector in terms of an
international public profile that takes the sector beyond an earlier
productivist and limited development logic. Whereas market
liberalisation created the opportunity to establish a dynamic
export sector that has revitalised the regional economy and
generated profits for domestic and international firms, also income
for the local government (from business rates principally), a
parallel process of socio-ecological globalisation has also ‘opened
up’. This has brought different actors to the table. Not only is the
regulatory regime fixed by the Chilean state and the aquaculture
firms. It is now increasingly influenced by a wider network of
interests that include international buyers, retailers, consumers,
researcher institutions, politicians, non-Chilean media and inter-
national NGOs. Many of these concerns and responses are now
apparent in the modification of the aquaculture legislation that has
been under discussion in Congress since January 2009. These
modifications are organised around the following four themes:
modification of the provision and operation of production sites;
changes in guarantees relating to site concessions and authorisa-
tions; improvements in regulation and inspection; a gradual
increase in the cost of a cage site permit (Presidential message
1346–356, January 2009).
The opening-up of the sector to these diverse stakeholder
groups has led to increased conflicts relating to the socio-
ecological impacts of the sector and local and regional develop-
ment patterns. Consequently, the time horizon of the sector’s
contributions has been changed. In their search for more
sustainable development, the more critical stakeholders are
seeking increased responsibility by firms in order to embed the
beneficial aspects of production – employment, wages, and
multiplier effects – in the areas where production and activity
takes place. This implies a shift away from a more short-termist
Fig. 7. The ‘sustainability deficit’ in Chilean aquaculture.
Ministry of Agricultural and Farm Development, cited in VietFish http://
J.R. Barton, A. Fløysand / Global Environmental Change 20 (2010) 739–752
view of the sector. This is increasingly of interest to the state
authorities – both sectoral and territorial – that are charged with
safeguarding the sector and its development outcomes.
Against this, the firms and their association have defended their
position as responsible actors in the region’s development process,
as the motor of regional development, and as rational actors in
their wish to preserve the sector in the longer-term. However, it is
precisely the contribution of the sector and how it benefits
production and processing locations and the region that is
questioned. Against these direct positive contributions from
production have to be weighed the negative impacts of environ-
mental degradation and site ‘souring’, also labour insecurity
(flexibility) and working conditions: the sources of the ongoing
Salmon aquaculture is now a consolidated sector in southern
Chile. Chile is also a leading player in global salmon production and
sales. However, much of the growth phase of the sector took place
within a weak regulatory environment and within a spatial context
of low levels of economic and human development. The
globalisation of the sector was driven by the economic imperative
and for much of this, a ‘socio-ecological silence’. However, this
globalisation process has now brought with it a different agenda.
This agenda, and its advocates, promote the responsibilities of
economic agents in the development process, also the responsi-
bilities of the state to ensure that minimum operating conditions
are met. These conditions must be designed to ensure positive,
longer-term socio-ecological outcomes from new economic
opportunities and to avoid trade-offs that mitigate against these
outcomes. Clearly, the firms will fight their corner since they are
currently experiencing pressures for greater transparency, also
potential economic losses from labour unrest, environmental and
sanitary risks, and increased operating costs. Nevertheless, this is
evidence of the emergence of what can be defined as sustainabili-
ty-oriented global networks, that unite diverse stakeholders with
common interests, and that empower them against more
consolidated alliances between economic actors and neoliberal
administrations with shorter-term agendas.
In view of the drive towards sustainable development on a
global level, and the implications of this at national and sub-
national levels, these sustainability-oriented global networks are
effectively driving the emergence of new governance regimes that
can be defined as neo-structural rather than neoliberal. The state is
no longer merely a facilitator, but also increasingly sanctions in
favour of broad-based territorial and social interests. It is a sure
sign that Chilean democracy is finally taking shape and that the
economic imperative of the authoritarian and early democratic
period is being overtaken by the potentialities of more sustainable
development within a context of deepening globalisation.
Despite the spat generated by the first New York Times article
about antibiotic misuse and other practises in the Chilean
aquaculture sector in March 2008, a further article emerged in 3
September 2008 by the same journalist. This time the focus was on
the government measures to control the virus, announced by
Minister Lavados. The repercussions of the disease and the
reporting of it have been significant. From April, the supermarket
firm Safeway stopped buying Chilean salmon produced in Regions
X and XI, concerned with issues of quality. It is further evidence of
the ways in which multiple stakeholders are now influencing the
sector’s development, and in turn heightening sustainability
considerations within this new globalised context. Although these
changes can be constructed in terms of political ecology, the
incorporation of labour, food safety and local development
considerations among stakeholders creates a new conceptual
framework of analysis, that of governance for sustainability.
While it is premature to draw conclusions regarding the longer-
term effects of the crisis, developments indicate that it has brought
certain urgency to demands for sustainability and has opened
spaces of engagement for civil society actors to bring these
demands into new fora. It remains to be seen in the longer-term
whether these will materialise into significantly different indus-
trial practices, although the new regulatory structure that is being
created suggest that this is likely. However, it is clear that
‘‘sustainability’’ has become a trope that government and industry
cannot avoid and that they are forced to take seriously and
incorporate in the rebuilding of the sector in the wake of the crisis.
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... While aquaculture has continued to provide additional protein supply for low-income communities through targeted technical assistance programmes throughout the Global South, the 'boom' in aquaculture is also related to the emergence of new actors developing substantial export capacity, as in the case of Chilean salmon production (Barton and Fløysand 2010). ...
... To counteract the latter, companies tackled the criticisms using the terminology of social and environmental responsibility in their reports (Marine Harvest 2009). However, the critical voices emerged strongly in this decade and became rapidly globalised also (Barton and Fløysand 2010). Reports and articles provided evidence to support the statements made concerning the industry's potential (environmental, social, and economic) and its impacts (both positive and negative) in the main producing areas. ...
... Despite these impacts, however, the discussion at the global level remained relatively stagnant. The idea that technological innovations are essential for confronting global sustainability challenges is a discourse that remained, and was linked to governance practices at various geographic scales (Barton and Fløysand 2010). Similarly, sustainability and responsibility have been used interchangeably by different organisations, particularly when referring to the environmental impacts of the industry (Boyd et al. 2020). ...
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... However, these territories often lack infrastructural connectivity. The cluster of salmon farms in Northern Patagonia in Chile is an example of this phenomenon [13][14][15][16][17]. ...
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... Previously policy formulation and enforcement in many regions lacked total community participation and hence aquaculture policies are not people oriented and fail to incorporate the communities' voice in policy development (Barton & Fløysand, 2010). Some countries have decided to rectify the problem and started to develop their policies in a participatory and transparent manner through SADP, considering the stakeholders involved. ...
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... Its treatment as other, the commoditization of its natural environment, and the continuing globalization of the provincial economy (Barton & Floysand, 2010;Mondaca, 2017) have been led by the state and by private investors, both domestic and international. However, local resistance to the perceived threat of development-as-modernity projects and sentiments of abandonment by and reluctance from the state have meant that these processes have been non-linear. ...
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This research seeks to link labour studies with political ecology by studying how the subsumption of nature affects labour agency in fisheries and aquaculture in Aysén, Chile. For this purpose, the time-space-form approach is used to compare their impact on the distribution of union power resources between these sectors. The findings indicate that labour agency is impacted by natural materiality and the environment unequally according to the strategy of appropriation and commodification of nature. This relationship between labour and nature is mediated by the organisation of the labour process, because bio-geographical conditions set the process of resource appropriation and commodification and, consequently, shape the relationship between capital and labour.
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Aquaculture is among the most dynamic sectors in the global food system, yet it remains surprisingly under-represented in the mainstream literature on food policy. This article reviews 204 published articles and reports and shows that government policies have strongly influenced the geographic distribution of aquaculture growth, as well as the types of species, technology, management practices, and infrastructure adopted in different locations. Global cross-section studies reveal a broad spectrum of under- to over-regulated aquaculture systems that correspond, respectively, to high- and low-growth areas for aquaculture. The bulk of this paper centers on aquaculture policy as it plays out six individual countries plus the EU: Bangladesh, Zambia, Chile, China, USA, and Norway. These case studies shed light on aquaculture policies aimed at economic development, aquaculture disease management, siting, environmental performance, and trade protection. Experiences from these countries point to the need to find the right policy balance between semi-subsistence farms, small and medium enterprises (SME), and large-scale commercial operations, particularly in low-income settings. The cases also highlight the importance of addressing aquaculture disease pressures and misuse of antimicrobials in many parts of the world, and identifying successful aquaculture policy instruments and institutions that can be transferred between countries. The review underscores the challenges of establishing nutrition-sensitive aquaculture policies and of incorporating aquaculture directly into food policy and global food system dialogues and action.
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En el último tiempo han emergido en la opinión pública diversas inquietudes respecto del impacto de las actividades productivas humanas en los ambientes naturales. Por otra parte, la globalización económica ha originado un intenso y progresivo intercambio de especies de flora, fauna y microorganismos, lo cual ha modificado los ecosistemas nativos a nivel planetario. Estas preocupaciones ambientales han despertado un interés creciente por comprender cómo las especies introducidas afectan a la flora y fauna nativas. Más allá de estas perspectivas, desde el enfoque de la denominada historia ambiental, en este trabajo nos interesa comprender y analizar las configuraciones sociales y económicas de este fenómeno. Ello con el objetivo de describir y explicar los orígenes, vicisitudes, concepciones e ideologías que justificaron la idea de introducir especies de peces en los ecosistemas acuáticos nacionales, además de examinar detalladamente los esfuerzos y las diversas cruzadas desplegadas por los pioneros de la piscicultura en Chile, sin olvidar tampoco las voces disidentes o disonantes. Nos interesa destacar que, si bien es cierto que solo en el último tiempo Chile ha logrado posicionarse como el segundo productor de salmón en el mundo, también lo es que desde hace 150 años, el país ha estado emprendiendo con éxito o fracaso diversos ensayos de aclimatación de peces. ¿Qué lecciones o huellas territoriales han dejado estas experiencias? ¿Cuáles han sido los impactos ambientales de estas innovaciones productivas? Aquí intentamos dar respuesta a estas y otras preguntas.
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The author argues that conflicts caused by the distribution of externalities-externalities which stem from changes in land use-constitute major challenges but, at the same time, unique opportunities for urban planning. Paying attention to these conflicts would enhance a form of planning suitable for the coping of two important current challenges in big cities: that of achieving environmental sustainability, and that of establishing politically more sophisticated and successful management styles than traditional ones.
Latin America's recent development performance calls for a multidisciplinary analytical tool kit. This book adopts a political-economy perspective to understand Latin American economies. This perspective is not new to the region; indeed, this volume consciously follows the approach pioneered by political economist Albert O. Hirschman a half century ago. But the nature of the political and economic processes at work in Latin America has changed dramatically since Hirschman's critical contribution. Military dictatorships have given way to an uneven democratic consolidation; agricultural or primary-product producers have transformed into middle-income, diversified economies, some of which are leading examples of emerging markets. So, too, the tools of political-economy have developed by leaps and bounds. It is therefore worthwhile to take stock of, and considerably extend, the explosion of recent scholarship on the two-way interaction between political processes and economic performance. A unique feature of the volume is that it begins with a group of articles written by high-level academic experts on Latin American economics and policies who also happen to be current or past economic policy makers in the region. These contributors draw upon their academic expertise to understand their experience in the trenches of policy making.
This edited volume is the foundation for the highly publicized research paradigm on global commodity chains (GCCs), which subsequently gave rise to the even more influential global value chains (GVCs) paradigm. All the papers assembled in this volume were presented at the 16th annual conference on the Political Economy of the World-System, held at Duke University on April 16-18, 1992. The chapters in the volume cover a diverse array of commodity chain, including: shipbuilding, grain flower, apparel, footwear, automotive, offshore services, grapes, and cocaine.
Salmon aquaculture is a dynamic growth industry in southern Chile, and a key export-oriented economic sector of the 1990s Chilean economy. The first issue this paper addresses is the role of aquaculture relative to the drive for export-led development and the crisis in capture fisheries. The second is the impact of the industry on regional economies. The paper concludes that salmon aquaculture, like other export-led industries closely linked with the national resource base, requires more efficient state regulation for greater sustainability.
1. The Dilemma of Sustainability 2. The Origins of Sustainable Development 3. The Development of Sustainable Development 4. Sustainable Development: The Rio Machine 5. Mainstream Sustainable Development 6. Countercurrents in Sustainable Development 7. Environment, Degradation and Sustainability 8. The Environmental Costs of Development 9. The Political Ecology of Sustainability 10. Sustainability and Risk Society 11. Mainstreaming Environmental Risk 12. Sustainable Development from Below 13. Green Development: Reformism or Radicalism?