Institutt for geografi

The political ecology of Chilean salmon aquaculture

Professor Jonathan R. Barton from Instituto de Estudios Urbanos y Territoriales, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and professor Arnt Fløysand from Department of Geography University of Bergen do as last years winner of Nobel's economy price Elinor Ostrom and publish in Global Environmental Change, 20th Anniversary Special Issue.



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.