SANTIAGO – For weeks, fishermen all over Chile are putting up barricades, blocking rivers and demonstrating a new law. A new law that has divided the fishing sector, resulting in the “Chilean squid war”. So, what are these Chilean fishermen fighting for?
Fishery is one of the most important industries in Chile, and one of the world’s largest. But as described by The Economist, being “a paradise for anglers but a headache for regulators”, Chilean lawmakers find every decision they make regarding the industry met with protest.
Currently, Chilean fishermen are fighting the government, Congress, and each other. When recently Congress passed a bill protecting the fishing methods on squid, restricting its extraction to artisanal methods, the decision was met with heavy protests from industrial fishermen.
The Squid Bill
The bill forces industrial fishermen to use more environmentally friendly methods, as methods using trawl nets damage coastal waters. In response to the bill, industrial fishers called a general strike, claiming corral methods to be not profitable.
But as the government announced last week, the president will veto the law, and artisanal fishermen have started to demonstrate as well. The fishermen claim to be victims on an unequal playing field, where industrial fishermen overfish their quota with their large-scale fishing methods. Artisanal fishers see the government’s decision to veto as yet another proof of the power leading industrial fishery companies have in Chile.
Today on CT: Violent protests by Chilean fishermen in the so-called "Squid War"
An important export product
Numbers show the importance of squid for Chile. According to ProChile, the sector exported last year squid for over US$ 194 million, an increase of 38% over 2017. In 2015, the industry exported just over US$ 55,9 million. The majority of the squid goes to Asia, particularly South Korea and Japan.
Artisanal fishers have announced more protests over the coming days, as the presidential veto is officially expected this week. In southern ports like Puerto Montt, Valdivia, Talcahuano, Concepción and Lota, confrontations have taken place between fishermen and Carabineros. Last week, in Maule region, fishermen put up burning barricades on the Ruta 5 Sur highway and various rivers in the Bíobío region have been blocked by artisanal boats. A story to be continued.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and made appearances on BBC World Services and ABC News during major events in Chile.