Chilean government measures to reactivate artesanal fishing
Chile’s artesanal fishing industry is mainly concentrated in the Bío-bío Region, in central-south Chile, which on 27th February became the epicentre of the earthquake of 8.8 on the Richter scale, followed by devastating tsunamis along the region’s 600 km of coastline. An estimated 60% of the fishing industry has been destroyed or is damaged. Industry speculates that recovery will take about 2 years.
The fishing industry in Chile lacks a Ministry of Fisheries, the highest authority being the Subsecretary of Fisheries under the Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism. This ministry has launched measures to reactivate the ailing artisanal fishing industry. Measures include up to 25% funding of costs for replacing or repairing boats up to 12 metres, engines and fishing gear, for a maximum amount of 2.1 million Chilean pesos per beneficiary. Neither fishermen nor shipowners will actually receive cash as this will be channelled directly to the private supplier companies concerned. To finance the remaining 75%, soft credits are being made available, with the guarantee of the Corfo, the Chilean economic development agency. Private sector concerns are tabling 50% of this 75%, so that the fishermen only have to finance the remaining 25%. Over the next six months, the ministry will make the system more flexible for artisanal fishing by allowing other fish species to be caught for human consumption. Also, the government is allowing experimental fishing, for Arauco, of southern rays bream and part of the 2011 quota for Pacific mackerel has been assigned to fishermen in this region. Further measures involve condoning 75 to 100% of payments that fishermen should make for access to coastal fisheries still unpaid to date and payable up to 2012. Juan Andrés Fontaine Talavera, Minister of Economy, Development and Tourism, along with Pablo Galilea Carrillo, the new Subsecretary of Fisheries, received a donation of US$1 million from the FAO for the artisanal fleet in the areas most affected by the earthquake or tsunamis. In Dichato, one of the most affected fishing ports, in the Bío-bío Region, fishermen and locals who have lost their houses, boats and everything in the tsunami that left this small coastal town devastated, almost two months after the event, are still living in makeshift accommodation. Sunday 4th April saw the first protest Artisanal fishing bays in the Bío-bío Region staged due to the 37-day delay in delivering the sloping roof single room houses promised to those stricken by the tsunami and earthquake. At the time of writing (3rd May), locals continue living in tents, warehouses, football fields high up on the hills and in houses of relatives. Fish is back on sale although, in some cases, at inflated prices.
Over two months after the earthquake followed by tsunamis in Chile, the government is dragging its feet with putting measures in place, but gives 3 or 4 fishermen boats that have been donated by the FAO and an American organization. Over the first weekend of May, I revisited Dichato, which was devastated by the tsunami. Two months ago, it is still a pile of rubble with people huddled around campfires up in the hills. It was like visiting a cemetery. Only 27 people were killed in Dichato – nothing in comparison with Haiti – although many are still having a rough time with little or no aid. Meanwhile, a private consultancy agency in the Bío-Bío Region visited a public fisheries authority this week, posing as a member of a government funding body to obtain information that it intended to sell to the government. On the other hand, goodwill springs up as in the case of a private boat repair company from Valdivia further south, which took on all its costs except for accommodation and food, without any government funding, and repaired 12 fishing boats in Dichato and Coliumo, the most devastated ports in the area. No deaths occurred in Coliumo as fishermen alerted the population in time of the tsunami. In a situation such as this, lessons are to be learnt for all.