Small-scale Fishing Is About Much More than Just Subsistence in Chile
In addition, they supply around 50 percent of all global fish catches, and fishing and aquaculture provide a livelihood for between 10 and 12 percent of the world’s population.
“Small-scale fishing makes key contributions to nutrition, food security, sustainable means of subsistence and poverty reduction, especially in developing countries,” FAO stated in response to questions from IPS.
Studies show that fish is highly nutritious, offering high-quality protein and a broad range of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A and D, phosphorus, magnesium and selenium, while saltwater fish have a high content of iodine.
Its protein, like that of meat, is easily digestible and complements protein provided by cereals and legumes that are the foundation of the diet in many countries of the developing South.
Experts say that even in small quantities, fish improves the quality of dietary protein by complementing the essential amino acids that are often present in low quantities in vegetable-based diets.
Moreover, fish oils are the richest source of a kind of fat that is vital to normal brain development in unborn babies and infants.
Chile, a long, narrow country between the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Andes mountains to the east, has 6,435 km of coast line and a broad diversity of marine resources.
Official figures indicate that 92 percent of fishing and fish farming activity involves fish capture, five percent seaweed harvesting, and the rest seafood harvesting.
The three main fish captured in Chile are the Chilean jack mackerel (Trachurus murphyi), sardines and the anchoveta, which bring in more than 1.2 billion dollars a year in revenues on average, but are facing an overfishing crisis.
Extractive fishing provides work for more than 150,000 people in this country of 17.6 million and represents 0.4 percent of GDP. Of the industry’s workers, just over 94,000 are small-scale fishers and some 22,700 are women, according to the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service.
About three million tons of fish are caught every year in this South American country. But fish consumption is just 6.9 kilos per person per year – less than eight percent of the 84.7 kilos of meat consumed annually per capita.
The low level of fish consumption in Chile is attributed to two main reasons: availability and prices.
With regard to the former, a large proportion of the industrial-scale fish catch is exported.
A controversial law on fisheries and aquaculture in effect since 2013, promoted by the right-wing government of former president Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014), has played a major role in this scenario.
The law grants fishing concessions for 20 years, renewable for another 20, and establishes that large companies can receive fishing rights in perpetuity, which can be passed from one generation to the next.
“Artisanal fishers who used to have a quota, a share of extractive fishing activity, were left without rights, and many lost their work,” Juan Carlos Quezada, spokesman for the National Council for the Defence of Artisanal Fishing(CONDEPP), told IPS.
The representative of the union of small farmers added that “ninety percent of artisanal fishers have been left without fish catch quotas, because concessions and quotas were only assigned to industrial fisheries and shipowners.”
While small-scale fishers are fighting for the law to be repealed, the government continues to support theDevelopment Fund for Artisanal Fishing which, contradictorily, is aimed at the sustainable development of Chile’s small-scale fishing industry, and backs the efforts of organisations of small fishers.
Pascual sees things clearly: “Fishing is my life and it will always be. The sea will always give us something, even if it offers us less and less.”
Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes
Pictures for this story
This story includes downloadable print-quality images — Copyright IPS, to be used exclusively with this story.
- Pedro Pascual, who has been a fisherman for 50 of his 70 years of life, prepares bait in the installations used by some 70 small-scale fisherpersons in a bay in the beach resort town of Algarrobo, Chile. This son, grandson and great-grandson of fishermen is worried because very few young people are fishing today. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS
- Boats anchored in a small bay in the Chilean town of Algarrobo, waiting for the local fishermen to head out to sea in the evening to put out their lines. They go out the next day at dawn to haul in their catch, in a centuries-old activity that is now threatened by overfishing and laws in favour of industrial-scale fishing. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS
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