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Ambiente & Sociedade

versão impressa ISSN 1414-753Xversão On-line ISSN 1809-4422

Ambient. soc. vol.20 no.2 São Paulo abr./jun. 2017 





2Sociologist P.U.C; MSc Universidad de Chile; PhD York University. Associated Professor Universidad de Concepción. Researcher. Researcher at the Interdisciplinary Center for Aquaculture Research. INCAR.

3Sociologist Universidad de Concepción. Research Assistant at the Interdisciplinary Center for Aquaculture Research. INCAR.


This text analyses the regulation and certification process of Chilean salmon farming based on the discourse of its actors. First we will show how new governance structures in the neoliberal context are a result of negotiation processes between diverse actors. Secondly, we will argue how said governance manages to articulate environmental rationalities and interests of a variety of actors from industry and civil society, however at the cost of minimizing socio-labor issues and suppressing the question of who has access to the use of nature. This implies privatizing common marine resources and contributes towards excluding several organized actors.

Key words: Salmon farming; Chile; governance; certifications; political ecology


Este texto analisa o processo de regulação e certificação da salmonicultura chilena, a partir dos discursos de seus atores. Este artigo documenta dois caminhos: um processo de regulação levado a cabo pela indústria nacional e mundial, e outro promovido pelo setor público. Através do estudo de caso demonstra-se primeiro como as novas estruturas de governança nacional e global, no contexto neoliberal, constituem-se como resultado de um processo de negociação entre diversos atores. Aqueles que conseguem efetivamente articular racionalidades e interesses de uma variedade de atores da indústria e da sociedade civil, mas às custas de menosprezar a questão social e laboral, suprimem a questão sobre quem tem acesso ao meio ambiente e aos recursos naturais. Isso consolida a privatização dos recursos comuns, contribuindo à exclusão de um conjunto de atores organizados.

Palavras-chave: salmão; Chile; governação; certificações; a ecologia política


This text analyses the regulation and certification process of Chilean salmon farming based on the discourse of its actors. First we will show how new national and global governance structures in the neoliberal context are the result of negotiation processes between diverse actors. Secondly, we will argue how said governance manages to articulate environmental rationalities and interests of the industry and part of civil society, however at the cost of minimizing socio-labor issues and the political question of who has access to the use of nature. This implies a privatization of common marine resources and contributes towards excluding several organized actors.

Salmon aquaculture was introduced in Chile in the late 1980s and by 2004 the country had reached 33% of world salmonid production. Farming and processing procedures are located in the southern regions of Chile, an area known for artisanal fishing and rural family agriculture with low urbanization levels. This rapid development has not been free of criticism. Despite the creation of jobs, precarious work conditions have been decried for contributing to the perpetuation of poverty (Pinto & Kremerman, 2005). In environmental issues, the salmon farming system, which consists of floating cages with high fish density located in lakes and inland seas, has been denounced for pollution through massive use of antibiotics, algaecides, and fungicides; and the accumulation of food and waste detritus at the bottom of the cages (Bushman, 2001). This degradation of marine systems affects fishing communities whose livelihoods are threatened by the decline in exploitable biomass.

The early stages of salmon farming development have been described as a socio-environmental silence, as controversial events were muted under the economic imperative of industrial growth (Barton & Fløysan, 2010). Between 2007 and 2010, the salmon industry suffered major health crises: first a massive Caligus (salmon louse) infestation, and later an ISA (infectious salmon anemia) virus epidemic. In March 2008, the influential New York Times newspaper published an article linking the massive use of antibiotics used to control ISA outbreaks -a health threat for consumers- with poor environmental conditions which affect both workers and local communities (Barrionuevo, 2008). This resulted in a sharp decline in salmon exports and the dismissal of thousands of workers. The crisis was therefore not only environmental, but above all, social. The socio-environmental uproar could no longer be ignored. After this crisis the industry has developed significant processes of 1) regulation, which implied a territorial reorganization and important changes in the General Law on Fisheries and Aquaculture (Estay & Chávez, 2015); and 2) private certification processes such as SalmonGAP, BAP, and ASC-WWF; the latter involving traditional conservationism NGOs. Industry actors signal the emergence of a “salmon industry 2.0”, alluding to its renewed character (Vallejos et al., 2014), as a result of learning from extremely costly errors: “this absolute catastrophe forced the industry to rethink the business; they saw “the goose that laid golden eggs” molting its feathers everywhere(Andrade, 2012)

Eco-certifications and environmental rationalities

This theoretical review focuses on two discussions so as to understand the case: first, what are the certification systems and how they have developed in the context of global capitalism, and second, the coexistence of different rationalities in the context of socio-environmental conflicts.

Environmental certifications are private governance systems (Gereffi et al., 2001) promoted by NGOs and large global retail companies (Cashore, 2002; Tran et al., 2013). These involve i) standardized norms; ii) traceability and auditing; iii) labeling; and iv) institutions -generally private organizations- that perform these functions (Bush et al., 2013). The procedures are designed to be objective, transparent, and replicable. This implies that i) whoever performs the audit and those audited are independent entities; ii) the audited product or process must be measurable to produce tangible evidence; and iii) evidence must be independently verifiable.

The certification processes synthesize two seemingly contradictory trends in contemporary neoliberal political economy: on the one hand, distrust for the regulatory role of the state and sympathy for market mechanisms, and on the other, a demand to democratize global economic governance (Bernstein, 2007). This allows the inclusion of a “green” production criterion without questioning the organization of capitalism (Friedmann, 2005). Some elements that stimulate this trend are, in the first place, a consumption pattern that demands more information, both on food emergencies (Fulpony, 2006) and on the environmental impacts of the processes (Young et al., 1999) - as long as consumers regard the States of the Global South as incapable of ensuring the safety and sustainability of production processes. Second, the choices made by traditional environmental groups, such as the WWF, of abandoning their traditional focus on the State to mobilize the environmental and ethical criteria of retailers and consumers (Vandergeest, 2007). Third, certifications being viewed by global retailing as a response to the socio-environmental campaigns that threaten their brands (Bush et al., 2013). Thus the oligopsonic nature of supermarket chains and the competition between them in terms of quality (Busch & Bain, 2004) has promoted the regulation of suppliers. Controls are established across national boundaries, which include “experiential” characteristics -freshness and organoleptic properties- and immaterial characteristics such as environmental and ethical conditions (Vandergeest, 2007).

There is skepticism regarding the real impact of certification processes. Bush & Duijf (2011) maintain that the focus on production units (such as farming centers) overlooks the aggregate territorial effect of several operations. They also underestimate the effects of previous stages, such as the production of supplies (seeds and food), distribution, and transportation. Belton et al. (2011) add that work becomes invisible, as permanent employment rates in fattening plants tend to be lower than in other stages of the production chain. On the other hand, the voluntary nature of certifications affects the production of enclaves that would improve environmental and working conditions in a limited space, but not so the general conditions of the aquaculture sector (Bush et al., 2013). Therefore, they would generate a rift between large and small aquaculture operators, limiting the latter’s access to markets, with lower socio-environmental gains.

Certification processes are political procedures that seek to influence socio-environmental conflicts. Thus there are actors with differences in interests, in the power and resources they mobilize, and especially in their environmental rationalities. Islam (2008) expresses concern over the exclusionary tendencies in these processes: barriers in language, access, costs, time, or resources that limit the participation of relevant actors from the Global South who bear local interests and rationalities. When they do participate, they are hardly able to influence the results (Bush et al., 2013). Likewise, some actors voluntarily exclude themselves as they disagree with the work approach, and particularly with the type of rationalities that are privileged.

Martínez Alier (2014) has elaborated on the different rationalities coexisting in the environmental movement. The author distinguishes three different mindsets that help understand the positions of the different actors participating in environmental governance exercises. The first mindset is conservationist, focusing on the conservation of nature as a pure wilderness, with an agenda centered on species conservation and limiting human interference. The WWF, a traditional NGO that has accompanied many certification processes, defines itself as a conservationist organization. The second mindset is ecological modernization or eco-efficiency and it seeks to harmonize industrial growth and development with sustainability. This rationality is very common among industrial actors and their technical staff participating in certification processes. Finally, the environmental justice or “ecology of the poor” mindset links the care for natural resources with the well-being possibilities of the inhabiting populations, emphasizing the right of access to and the care for nature as a common good. This rationality is common in local communities living directly from the use of natural resources, such as artisanal fishers (Guha, 1999). Martínez Alier indicates a possibility for dialogue between conservationism and ecological modernization - using the language of science. Dialogue with the “ecology of the poor”, however, is more difficult, since rather than focusing on conservation, they obtain their sustenance from nature, defending their right of access. Moreover, the language of science is problematic, as they often prefer the symbolism of myths and religion.

Hanataka (2014) notes the centrality of scientific discourses and practices in the development, organization, and legitimation of global certification processes. The centrality of scientific language does not account for the diversity of cultural rationalities and specificities at stake during a certification process. Such processes are controversial in the Global South for this very reason (Hatanaka, 2014). The dialogue between these different rationalities and interests in the context of certification processes is traversed by global power relations “between Northern standard setters and Southern standard takers(Belton et al., 2011). The rationalities and languages of the North (conservationism and ecological modernization) exert hegemony over the discussion. Vandergeest & Unno (2012) expose the colonialist structure that organizes current certification discussion, evidencing a discourse reminiscent of imperial tales: subjects in need of protection, inadequate local states, and a global territory under imperial protection.

Methodological aspects

For the purpose of this study, a regulatory regime is defined as a performative network that establishes relationships between State institutions, environmental groups, development agencies, commercial agreements, consumers, retailers, producers, policies, and research centers to articulate and negotiate environmental impacts, economic growth, trade, food security, and others (Vandergeest, 2007). The methodological structure of this article aims at recognizing the different voices in this network -industry, government, labor unions, and other civil society organizations- that are articulated focusing on the construction of governance from certification and regulation processes in Chilean salmon farming. Data is collected longitudinally, allowing to follow the process through two series of data collection:

The first, developed between 2008 and 2010 during the ISA virus crisis, was part of a larger effort regarding the political ecology of Chilean salmon farming. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with various actors involved in the certification and regulation process: international and Chilean NGOs, government agencies, industrial actors, and trade unions of fishermen and workers (see brief description in Annex). The second phase of data collection was developed during 2015, during an important regulatory and certification process, where some of the previously interviewed actors were contacted again.

Political waves, regulatory dams

In the 1990s, the first critical voices regarding salmon farming began to emerge in Chile, first focusing on environmental issues (Lopez & Buschmann, 1991) and then focusing on labor issues and the displacement of fishing communities from accessing common resources (Claude et al., 1999). A political alliance was formed, including national and international environmental organizations, fishermen unions, and industrial worker unions, who together determined that the salmon farming development model was problematic. They then discussed conservation-based rationalities and others focused on the question of environmental justice and socio-labor demands. Since 2002 there have been various episodes of media campaigning, street mobilization, legal actions, and strikes that intensified after the ISA crisis. The following sections will focus on several instances where different interest groups negotiated the regulatory issue. In particular, we will follow two paths: one promoted and supervised by the public sector, which led to important changes in industry regulation; and a second referring to the self-regulation of national and global industry, from a process of self-certification to the formation of an industry-NGO governance.

From mediation to environmental regulation

By 2002, both industry and government were concerned about the social unrest associated with salmon farming. In this context, the government promoted two initiatives: a social dialogue between industry and civil society, and the “Clean Production Agreement” (APL). Eight years later, the ISA crisis evidenced the insufficiency of both initiatives, leading to the constitution of the “Salmon Tables” and to opening a parliamentary investigation that led to important regulatory changes. Although the driving force behind these changes was an alliance between social organizations and an environmental concern -in terms of a political ecology for salmon farming- the result of the obtained regulatory changes underrepresented labor considerations, imposing an ecological modernization mindset.

In 2002, the Minister of Labor convened a “social dialogue program for the salmon industry” under the ILO model. Initially, the dialogue execution was entrusted to the NGO ICAL, which focused on promoting strong unions with negotiation capabilities (ICAL interview, 2009). Therefore, while the government designed social dialogue as a way of smoothing conflicts, ICAL made them visible. This NGO led the table for only two years after which it was awarded to El Canelo de Nos, which emphasized the generation of spaces of trust between the parties. This shift evidenced a contractual culture between NGOs and State relations, which Edwards & Hulme (1996) described as too close and subordinating NGOs to the State agenda. Trade unions and other organizations that participated actively in these dialogues maintained a critical distance, describing them as an image cleansing for the industry, and accusing the companies of disobeying the commitments “to show that the companies met with the workers and the government” (FETRACAL leader interview, 2015). This underlines the non-binding nature of the process.

Also in 2002, SalmonChile and the government signed the APL-Salmon, an environmental certification exercise based on public-private collaborationi. This consisted of an agreement between INTESAL and the government, to assure compliance with Chilean regulations, organized in three stages. First, the set of rules was systematized to generate a single regulatory body. The second period consisted of two adaptation years, in which companies invested to implement regulations and facilitated inspections. In the adaptation period, legal sanctions were not applied and assessment was provided for complying with the norm. In the third period, external inspections certified the companies. The APL transformed the relationship between industry and regulatory agencies, shifting their role as supervisor to one of partnership. The APL Coordinator stated in 2010: “We have worked on a public-private partnership (...) when we visit as APL, we show them why they receive the fines (...) we will not fine them - later we may fine them, not as APL, but as a monitoring entity (...) but they had been warned (...) this has generated a basic trust”.

This association can be said to distract public bodies from their regulatory task: “Inspectors simply do not fulfill the expected role: to inspect. More than anything, today the inspector is a mediator... if I find something wrong I give you ten days to fix it (...) what does this imply? That companies take this and now commit more faults” (FETRACAL leader interview, 2015). Moreover, it indirectly constitutes a subsidy for the industry certification process. Public agencies organize their activities and resources to produce a seal. The APL was strongly criticized by environmental NGOs. First, because of its basis in Chilean regulation, which they considered functional to the needs of the industry. Second, it is noted that some of the companies, despite signing the APL, continued to violate the regulations. Thirdly, the absence of labor aspects and their bilateral nature, excluding other stakeholders, is criticized.

The socio-environmental ISA crisis evidenced the limits of the described initiatives. The APL -and therefore the legislation- was sufficient to prevent the epidemic outbreak, and the social dialogue program was incapable of channeling the dissatisfaction. In this context, union leaders and NGOs convened two parliamentarians to include salmon issues as part of their political agenda. The result was a parliamentary investigation and the constitution of the “Salmon Tables”, to generate a diagnosis and a proposal for its discussion in the Congress. Two tables were set up: a work table composed of representatives from the industry and trade unions, with the methodological support of the NGO El Canelo; and a second environmental table which included fishermen organizations and industry representatives. These new tables -demanded by the bases and of a political character- generated high expectations and high media coverage. These expectations quickly faded for the more militant sectors for two reasons. First, the convening of the work table was perceived as politically interventionist, since a leader was excluded from more radical positions and had begun discussions with parliamentarians. Second, the tables again lacked binding capacity, merely providing a diagnosis and recommendations to Parliament.

As a result of this process, in April 2010, there were important changes in the General Law on Fisheries and Aquaculture (Law 20.434). The Aquaculture Sub-directorate was created in the National Fisheries Service and several reforms were introduced in the organization of the industry. In particular, units were set up to organize the aquaculture operation -called Aquaculture Suitable Areas (AAA) available for concessioning- which preserves other areas as free from aquaculture activity. The “Concession Groupings”, called “salmon districts” by the media, were also established, which recognize salmon farming as an aggregated territorial impact activity requiring the coordination of maximum densities and prophylactic and rest measures between the productive centers.

One of the most paradoxical elements of this process, and which reflects the type of socio-environmental rationality that has become dominant, has to do with the environmental focus of regulatory changes. Despite the central role played by unions in each of the stages of this process, and particularly in its politicization and arrival in Congress, most of the changes focused on environmental issues combining conservation and sustainability logics. Moreover, the spatial redistribution of farming centers and the shift system required by the new environmental standard directly affect the labor stability of industrial workers; particularly those from processing plants whose labor sources are now spaced out in time (Barra, 2011). The only proper labor measure contemplated by the new regulation was the explicit link between maintaining concession rights and respecting the labor code, in such a way that repeated sanctions for anti-union practices would lead to the cancellation of the aquaculture concession. However, union leaders note that the effects of this measure would be seriously undermined by the difficulty of inspecting anti-union practices in isolated places. In the words of a historic trade unionist: “If a “bloodsucker” commits anti-union practices, he will lose the aquaculture concession. How many unions are still alive in the salmon industry? How many unions can we establish with fixed-term or work hour contracts? (...) How will an anti-union practice be investigated in the Las Guaitecas, Melchor Island, Cuptana, Concoto areas?” (Casas, 2010).

In short, the pressure from civil society -from a logic combining conservationism and environmental justice- as well as the industry’s interest in the sustainability of its production process has made salmon farming a matter of interest to the State. The first approximations focused on conflict management and the implementation of a public-private certification network. The ISA crisis led to politicizing the regulatory issue. The changes focused on the environmental issue -defining specific areas for aquaculture (and therefore conserving areas free of fish farms) and defining technical criteria for the sustainable development of the activity- leaving the current labor legislation untouched, that is, divorcing the socio-labor issue from the environmental discussion.

From private governance to the industry-NGO complex

Since 2003, the industry has expressed concerns about the sustainability of its production, developing a self-regulatory strategy, from a “behind closed doors” process that has evolved into a process open to third parties. This has eased the dialogue between the industry and traditional conservation NGOs. Environmental justice NGOs and fishing communities, who question not only the environmental impact of the industry but also the privatization of common marine resources, have been the most excluded.

The Integrated System for the Management of the Salmon Industry (SIGES), implemented by INTESAL since 2003, was the first exercise in self-regulation, traceability, and unified industrial certification. It was a voluntary system that monitored quality, environmental legislation, and health and safety at work, in accordance with current legislation, and ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 standards. In this process, the industry presents itself as leading the question regarding the sustainability of their production systems. In the words of a former SalmonChile director: “we either ask SERNAPESCA to increase its regulations as much as possible or we ourselves regulate and report the “wrongdoers” to the government” (field notes, SalmonChile seminar, July 2006). Three reasons promoted implementation: first, the need to control the global certification process, where the diversity of certifications was perceived as chaotic: “it does not make sense to have different standards, we need a common ground” (interview with former manager SalmonChile, 2010). Second, it was necessary to respond to the demands of retailers and consumers who “want to know how a product is made” (interview with INTESAL professional, 2010). Third, in a context of social unrest, an instrument capable of dealing with criticism is necessary. Industry documents describe SIGES as a “protective shield that allows the industry as a whole to respect the rules (...) capable of defending the industry from external criticism and external attacks(Alvial & Bravo 2006: 34).

SIGES was designed by experts, without stakeholder participation, which deprives it of one support base. This led the industry to ally with other industry and retail players as external sustainability guarantors. In 2010, SalmonChile adjusted the SIGES standard to the Global GAP standard by creating “SalmonGap”, articulating the needs of the salmon industry with a seal validated in Europe. They also joined the Best Aquaculture Practices certification (BAP) of the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA). These processes are corporate strategies, with the sustainability of the production system as a horizon - which does not include the participation of civil society actors.

The case of the “Aquaculture Stewardship Council” (ASC), from the WWF Salmon Dialogues, is different. In 2005, WWF promoted this initiative in southern Chile as an instance of private governance that would articulate the industry with diverse stakeholders. This call was received cautiously by NGOs and unions, but despite concerns, civil society as a whole participated in the first meeting. However, during the assembly, some of the participating NGOs, environmental justice NGOs, and trade unions decided to leave the table accusing the dialogues of excluding central actors (such as the public sector), of constituting an “image cleansing” for the industry, and of promoting the division of civil society. On the other hand during the dialogue, FETRAINPES workers, originally not invited, interrupted the sessions, denouncing the industry and demanding an open dialogue with the presence of government officials. With the support of international observers such as WWF, NET, and Suzuki Foundation, a series of additional meetings were held between industry, trade unions, and the Labor Directorate to discuss labor issues that were outside the dialogue process (WWF, 2005). This maneuver resulted, in the long-term, in the inclusion of labor issues in the ASC salmon standard, marking a difference with other ASC standards.

From the industry, participation in the dialogue was a new opportunity in its quest to be recognized as a sustainable enterprise, legitimized from scientific rationality: “our interest in the WWF dialogues is, with all the scientific information available on the market (...), to be able to show that the industry is... well, I don’t want to say that it’s perfect, there are always things to correct (...), however I think it is absolutely environmentally sustainable” (SalmonChile interview, 2010). Among the organizations that had historically criticized the industry, the WWF dialogue caused a split between two groups of actors. On the one hand, those organized from the question for the conservation and the socio-environmental sustainability decided to remain in the dialogue. On the other hand, those actors who appeal to environmental justice in the access to common resources decided to exclude themselves, raising the following complaint: “it is an attempt to divide environmental organizations, fishermen, and salmon worker unions, to prevent the establishment of national and international alliances in defense of the marine environment “(Ecoceanos, interview, 2010).

Interestingly, at least some of these dissident organizations problematize the focus on scientific discussion that proposes both the conservationist look of WWF and the ecological modernization look of the industry. From an environmental justice perspective, NGOs and fishermen organizations point out that conflict cannot be resolved in terms of scientific consensus but rather in political terms, as they are based on the distributive question. On the other hand, the NGO Ecoceanos, in dialogue with the mystical political language of the popular environmental rationality, appeals to traditional mythological figures: “we are going to face the Chilean mermaid, the Pincoya -which represents the health of the sea, the abundance of resources- against the salmon, which is an introduced species, carnivorous, that is destroying the ecosystems” (Ecoceanos Director interview, 2010).

At the global level, the dialogues established a Direction Committee, made up of 4 NGOs and 4 industry actors, including two Chilean actors: NGO Terram and SalmonChile. In 2012, the dialogues led to the formation of the ASC, with the commitment of producing a global sustainable aquaculture standard. This standard considers the farming center as a certification unit and includes the following aspects: 1) compliance with national laws; 2) conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem functions; 3) wildlife protection; 4) efficient use of natural resources; 5) disease and parasite management; 6) social responsibility; and 7) a positive behavior as neighbor and citizen. In terms of rationalities, this norm shapes the dialogue between industrial interests for the sustainable development of the activity and the traditional interest of environmentalism for the conservation of the oceans. That is, it recognizes the concerns of both groups for standards that allow the development of the activity with controlled impacts; an interest shared by trade union organizations interested in preserving the industry’s work sources. What makes this norm invisible is a discussion regarding who accesses the socio-environmental resources of the oceans: who has the right to occupy the ocean. In this sense, both fishermen organizations and NGOs with a traditional focus on environmental justice are excluded from the discussion.

Final reflections

The regulatory and certification process, experienced by the salmon industry, did not only stem from a process of industry learning, but also from the influence of sustained social pressure from a diversity of actors. Voluntary acceptance of regulations by the industry cannot be sought only from the pressure of informed consumers, but also from long-term activism by an array of actors. The ISA virus, as well as other massive infectious outbreaks, reveal the problems of the industry and are important factors that drive reflexive processes regarding productive practices. However, they do not act on their own, but rather from the way they are read, interpreted, and used by social actors. The analysis presented shows that the pressure exerted by local NGOs and trade unions is a relevant force in this array. In another political scenario- without the challenge posed by organized groups -the ISA crisis could have given rise to a technological restructuring that improved sanitary conditions. However, given the context, great efforts were made to regulate the relationship between industry and other actors in the territory. Even more clearly, certification trends had to leave their intra-industrial character to be open to stakeholders.

The type of regulation, and established governance around salmon farming, cannot be described merely as intra-industrial, but rather as a network between industry, State, and at least a part of civil society. The center of this network is the alliance between traditional NGOs -of conservationist and sustainable development mindsets- and industrial actors increasingly concerned with the sustainability of their productive systems (which are themselves threatened by deregulation), in what Gereffi et al. (2001) call the Industry-NGO Complex.

What has the establishment and maintenance of this regulatory network involved from the point of view of environment, workers, and local communities? This network has promoted the stabilization and reproduction of certification norms, and this generates environmental benefits from the point of view of conservation and sustainable development. However, even from these parameters, the relationship established between its members seems to be “too close”, so that each stakeholder in the network risks failing to properly perform its task while seeking to maintain said sustainability. The State may result in being an ally and a consultant, rather than an actual inspector of environmental and labor practices; and NGOs involved in certification committees, or in a contractual relationship with the state, risk losing their independence to act on behalf of, and together with, the weaker actors. In sum, these alliances risk undermining the independence of each actor and, in turn, the effectiveness of the entire process.

The most problematic element of this assembly is the set of exclusions that result from the environmental discourse that builds the NGO-industry-State alliance. In the first place, the notorious environmentalization of the regulatory framework ends up cornering labor issues, a concern that has been widely raised by the unions. Both the certifications and the regulatory changes made by the government have focused on environmental indicators, and even some measures directly affect employment stability. This paradox is reflected in the last dialogue, carried out in late 2014, where workers continue to raise the same concerns as in 2000, with apparently no resolution as of yet. Second, the unusual alliance between the conservationist world -represented by traditional NGOs like the WWF- and industries that declare being on an ecological modernization path, ends up excluding from the discussion those who problematize the right to use natural resources. The certification systems regulate the territorial impact of industries, but not the right of companies to occupy parts of a marine territory previously considered a common use resource. For this reason, fishermen organizations and NGOs in the political ecology tradition, representing other rationality and interests -the “environmentalism of the poor” for Martínez Alier- end up being excluded or self-excluded from this process.

As an epilogue and as a symbol of the exclusion of environmental discourses rooted in the immediate subsistence of coastal communities, we wish to refer to a new cycle of socio-environmental conflicts that has erupted during the review process of this article. A severe algal blooming episode has prevented the work of artisanal fishers for several months. The salmon industry, the government, and also much of the scientific discourse attribute this blooming to climate change; the coastal communities, meanwhile, raise a counter-discourse in attributing the crisis to industrial waste. This counter-discourse does not articulate scientific consensus, but rather emerges from the rage over the deterioration of a traditional common resource and an increasing exclusion from its use. Its content links the health of the ecosystem with the reproduction of personal life. In the midst of barricades and roadblocks, a fisherman cries out weeping: “these idiots have polluted already, everything is polluted! We won’t have anything to eat!” (El Mostrador video, 09.05.2016).


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i43 companies subscribed to APL (80% of the total salmon and trout producers); by 2006, 12 had achieved the defined standards.

1This paper was written thanks to the support of the Interdisciplinary Center for Aquaculture Research. INCAR, FONDAP N° 15110027.

Received: November 25, 2015; Accepted: December 12, 2016

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