New president poses risk for Chile’s salmon farmers

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Chile’s salmon farmers face an uncertain future following the victory this week of Gabriel Boric as the country’s new left-wing president.

The 35-year-old former student protest leader was openly hostile about fish farming during the election campaign and warned companies they will have to rein in their activities.

Salmon is Chile’s second largest export commodity and the sector is one of the country’s principal rural employers.

Boric, who was brought up in a fish farming district, was a clear winner over Antonio Kast, his right wing rival. He has promised to spread the country’s wealth by raising taxes on Chile’s super rich, and to introduce other major social reforms. His victory was greeted with wild celebrations in the capital Santiago.

But it is his warnings about aquaculture that will have fish farming companies worried. So far they have held back on commenting about the result, hoping Boric will have more important issues to worry about.

During the campaign he accused salmon companies of polluting the environment with chemicals and fish waste, leaving the clean-up bill to be paid for by ordinary taxpayers.

He also hinted at part-nationalisation, saying salmon businesses should be “properly regulated and decentralised” although he did not spell out how he planned to carry out that threat.

Boric also told the electorate that more of the revenues from aquaculture should stay in those areas where the industry is based.

He declared a few weeks ago: “It is not just about breeding and exports. Fish farming should be an affiliated industry and while jobs are important they should not be at the expense of the environment.”