Chile salmon industry swims against current

Updated 07 July 2017

Chile salmon industry swims against current

SANTIAGO: Salmon are leaping in their millions from Chilean fish farms to US, Japanese and European dining tables — but surging demand and environmental concerns have Chile wriggling on the hook.
The world’s second-biggest producer of the juicy pink fish after Norway, Chile earned $3.8 billion from farmed salmon last year — but campaigners warn the environment is paying a high cost.
“The demand for salmon is unsustainable,” said Liesbeth van der Meer, director of environmental group Oceana Chile.
“There is an ecological burden that the system can no longer endure. Beyond a certain quantity of salmon, it collapses.”
She calculates that for every 190 grams of salmon produced, a kilo of local fish is used to feed the farmed salmon. To make the industry sustainable, Chile should halve its current salmon production, she said.
Yet the industry estimates that demand for salmon is rising by 10 percent a year. And 70,000 jobs in Chile depend on it.
Last year, red algae infested the waters off southern Chile, killing other sea life. Environmentalists blamed it on waste emissions from fish farms.
The algae wiped out a fifth of Chile’s salmon production in 2016. It fell from 883,000 to 728,000 tons — most of that exported to the US, Europe, Brazil and Japan.
Chile’s size in the market is such that the fall contributed to a 40-percent rise in world salmon prices. Producers are recovering from that blow. But the president of the SalmonChile trade association, Felipe Sandoval, acknowledged they were taking measures to ensure medium- and long-term stability and to reduce costs.
Separately, the industry has been criticized for pumping antibiotics into the salmon, prompting warnings that this could promote drug-resistant super-bacteria.
In 2016 the Chilean salmon industry used 382.5 tons of antibiotics. That was 700 times the amount used in Norway.
The government in 2007 had to reduce the intensity of salmon farming due to an outbreak of infection. Any further health alerts will hit production, warned Eugenio Zamorano, head of aquaculture in the Fisheries Ministry.
But “if the health and environmental parameters are working, the industry can grow,” he told AFP.
New regulations affecting the fish farms will come into force in 2018 in response to weather phenomena in the Pacific that experts suspect are due to climate change. Compared to Chile’s two other major salmon-producing regions, Magallanes — the furthest to the south — has a relatively good level of environmental controls, without too many fish farms close together, the government says.
With cooler waters, farms in Magallanes use less than 1 percent of the antibiotics used in the other two regions, Aysen and Los Lagos.
“Magallanes offers a possibility for sustainable development” in salmon farming, said Zamorano.
The government’s aim, he said, is “to generate sustainable development of an economic activity that generates jobs and revenues.”


A Sinai desert community in Egypt leads the way in agritourism

Updated 29 February 2020

A Sinai desert community in Egypt leads the way in agritourism

  • A Sinai desert community in Egypt leads the way in agritourism
  • It hosts a learning center that has partnered with universities to promote a new form of educational tourism

CAIRO: “Community is everything, surround yourself with beautiful souls and watch what happens. So much love, I feel it bubbling out of my chest,” writes Madison Cooper.

The experienced yoga instructor and assistant manager at The Kings Arms pub and music venue in Salford, UK, said this when describing her experience in the Habiba village, a remote beach community in the middle of Egypt’s South Sinai desert.

It was this feeling of peace and tranquility that brought Cairo-born Maged El-Said and his Italian wife Lorena to the Egyptian port city of Nuweiba to settle and eventually start the Habiba community in 1994.

The community is a village that hosts an eco-friendly beach lodge, an organic farm, the Sinai Palm Date foundation and a learning center partnered with universities and organizations around the globe to promote a new form of educational tourism by hosting professional certification courses in permaculture and agriculture ecosystems.

More than 90 percent of Egypt’s land is covered by deserts, Sinai being part of the Eastern desert that occupies more than 20 percent of the country’s surface area, with very few populated villages and cities along the Red Sea coastal strip.

“I am sure there is enormous potential to invest in our huge deserts. The hidden value is in the people if we learn from each other the best way of integrating management of resources,” El-Said said.

This, however, is easier said than done: El-Said, who is now in his sixties, spent almost 20 years taking “agritourism” from a concept to a meaningful business.

He succeeded in 2009, when tourists started coming to volunteer at the organic farm merely to enjoy the experience of isolated serene living.

Before that, El-Said spent several years doing a series of seminars and workshops and inviting local and international experts in organic farming to discuss the agritourism model.

His first introduction to the field was in Italy, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Italian language and literature in the 1970s.

Italian agritourism gained traction around the time when the agricultural business became less profitable.

Farmers in Italy were giving up, transforming their farms and farmhouses into vacation homes where tourists could stay and experience farming.

“People come to enjoy the beautiful nature and the serene surroundings, eat clean food and leave with fresh ideas and a new perspective on life,” said El-Said when explaining the concept of agritourism.

While the idea is widespread in the US and many European countries, it remains nascent in MENA. Sporadic trials around the region are currently under way, including a licensing program launched by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities for farms willing to explore the concept and offer agritourism services.

Expanding the scope of its target community, the Habiba learning center has been working toward hosting a series of certificate program.

Among them are an internationally recognized Permaculture Design Certificate course that provides an introduction to sustainable living systems for a wide variety of landscapes and climates.

The move is intended to attract a more professional interna- tional audience and establish a new breed of educational tourism. El-Said has an ambitious plan for the future, hoping he can establish a desert research hub within his community and start replicating the model in other Egyptian resort cities by the year 2025.

“It is challenging but beautifully rewarding; people are resistant to change, but when they see a working model, it becomes easy for them to follow,” he said.

• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.