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Alejandro Zuleta V.


The factors that have determined the sustainability of the small pelagic fishery along the coast of Chile in the south-eastern Pacific are discussed according to the guidelines provided by the coordinators of the Second Workshop on Factors of Unsustainability and overexploitation in Fisheries. The discussion begins with a brief description of the fishery, and continues on to examine the bio-ecological, economic, social, and institutional factors of unsustainability. The discussion of each factor provides a historical perspective, and then concludes with a description of the positive actions that show that the administration has fully comprehended the aims of management that promote fisheries sustainability. This is followed by a description of the obstacles that must be overcome in order to continue advancing. The document concludes by identifying the main factors associated with unsustainability and a list of the actions that could contribute to improving the sustainability of the small pelagic fisheries in Chile.


In Chile, there are two main fisheries units of small pelagic fish, one which is located in the north zone of the country (18º 21’ -24º 00’ S.L.) and another which is located in the centre-south zone (32ª 00´-43º 30’ L.S.) (Figure 1). The northern unit shares the anchovy and sardine stock with the fishery of southern Peru.

Figure 1. Localization of the Chilean fishery of small pelagic fish.

The fishery is located in the Humboldt Current upwelling system on the eastern border of the South Pacific, which is similar to the current systems of California, Benguela and the Canary Islands. The Humboldt Current upwelling system has been described as one of the most productive in the world. The biological production of this system sustains massive pelagic fisheries that represent 17 percent of world landings. The pelagic populations and the associated fisheries are subject to the recurring effects of the El Niño phenomenon and also to low-frequency environmental variations. El Niño modifies the space-time distribution and the abundance of the fish, while the environmental variations produce regime shifts in the pelagic ecosystem and its biological production levels. The regime shifts are correlated with the changes observed in the specific structure of the fish communities and in the pelagic fishery production.

The industrialized fleet’s landings in Chile during 2001 were a little over 4.3 million tonnes of which 73 percent were small pelagic species. The jack mackerel (Treacherous symmetricus murphyi) constituted 36 tonnes of the landings of pelagic species. The anchovy (Engraulis ringens) constituted 44 percent of pelagic landings, while the remaining 20 percent included the common sardine (Strangomera bentincki), mackerel (Scomber japonicus) and sardine (Sardinops sagax), in descending order. The specific composition of the catches changes according to the fishery unit. In the north zone, the anchovy, the sardine and the mackerel are the main species, while in the center-south zone; the jack mackerel and the common sardine are the main species. Also in this zone, the purse seine fleet tends to catch large quantities of juvenile hoki (Macruronus magellanicus), which shows pelagic behaviour, for fishmeal production.

Figure 2. Landings of pelagic resource in Chile. Period 1960-200

In Chile, the pelagic resources are exploited by industrialized and artisanal fleets that use the purse seine for fishing gear. The catch is used mainly to produce fishmeal and fish oil in order to supply the external demand for the materials necessary to make balanced feed for chickens and pigs and the internal demand of the salmon-farming industry. In recent years, the production and export of frozen jack mackerel has increased and an increase of internal demand is expected.

Figure 3. Number and mean hold capacity of the industrial of the purse seine vessels in the Chilean fishery of small pelagic fishes. Period 1970-1999.

The fishmeal and fish oil industry constituted 30 percent (US$260 million) of the value of the exports of fishers during 2001. The proportion of the value generated by the export of fishmeal has diminished with respect to the total and the unitary value of the exported tonnes has augmented. Currently, this product is sold in 52 external markets, of which the most important are Japan, China, and Taiwan.

Between 1960 and 2002, the pelagic fishery showed three successive peaks of production, which were associated with the dominance in the catch of the anchovy, sardine, and jack mackerel (Figure 2). The first two peaks are related to the alternation between the anchovy and the sardine in the catches of the environmental variations produce regime shifts in the pelagic ecosystem and its biological production levels. The regime shifts are correlated changes observed in the specific structure of the fish communities and in the pelagic fishery production.

During most of the history of the pelagic fishery in Chile the industrialized fleet has been the main contributor to the catches. However, during the past decade, artisan fishing of the common sardine and anchovy has grown remarkably, reaching almost 18 percent of total landings. This is the response to the stimulus provided by the government’s decision to grant exclusive fishing rights to the artisan sector within a zone that is five nautical miles wide. The effective control of the operations of the industrialized fleet by means of satellite positioning devices has also contributed to the success of this measure.

During most of the history of the pelagic fishery in Chile the industrialized fleet has been the main contributor to the catches. However, during the past decade, artisan fishing of the common sardine and anchovy has grown remarkably, reaching almost 18 percent of total landings. This is the response to the stimulus provided by the government’s decision to grant exclusive fishing rights to the artisan sector within a zone that is five nautical miles wide. The effective control of the operations of the industrialized fleet by means of satellite positioning devices has also contributed to the success of this measure.


2.1 Bio-ecological component of sustainability

2.1.1 Protection, conservation, and restoration of the stocks

Despite the fact that the State mentioned the objectives of conservation and protection of fisheries resources in the legal body of fisheries administration (DL[31] No. 34 of 1931), which was in force when the small pelagic fishery was first developed, the government prioritized the promotion of the emerging industry and the administrators applied protective measures that they believed to be reasonable and easy to apply (reproductive bans and size restrictions). The administration did not comprehend the importance of initiating conservation actions. This attitude prevailed in fisheries administration despite the crises of the anchovy species as a consequence of the El Niño phenomenon of 1965, 1968 and 1972-1973.

The administration justified these proceedings with their minimal knowledge of the biology and productive capacity of the resources, the competition for the anchovy stock shared with southern Peru and the deep-rooted perception in the public and private fishing sector that resources like the anchovy were unmanageable. This perception was due to the highly variable and sensitive behaviour that the anchovy showed in situations of uncertain environmental disturbances, and to the evidence supplied by other similar fisheries in the world that had experienced similar fluctuations in abundance (Californian sardine, Benguela sardine, North Atlantic herring, etc.).

The level of concern about conservation demonstrated by the administration changed significantly during the peak of exploitation of the Spanish sardine, which followed the collapse of the anchovy in 1973. In 1982, the technical division of the Fisheries Under-Secretariat assessed the stock of the Spanish sardine, taking advantage of the data series available at the time (Serra and Zuleta, 1983 and Zuleta and Serra, 1983). These studies permitted a greater comprehension of the effects of fishing, determining that it, together with recruitment, was another factor that explained the changes in abundance that occurred in the 1980s. In particular the studies determined that it was the immediate cause of the dramatic reductions in spawning stock that occurred in 1982 when El Niño 1982-1983 pushed the resource toward the coast.

The authorities became concerned about these occurrences and decided to apply a TAC of 1.3 million tonnes for the first time in 1983, based on an estimation of the abundance by means of VPA and the constant fishing mortality strategy F0.1. The industry resisted this measure which, not surprisingly, due to the excessive size of the fleet, shortened the fishing season. Given that the economy was in recession at the time, this decision led to strong social and economic pressure on the authorities, which eventually gave in to this pressure first by adding a supplement to the quota and finally by revoking it.

International experts later reinforced the importance of the effects of fishing and the need to implement conservation regulations, introducing the concepts necessary for the implementation of such regulations. Murphy (Doucet and Murphy, 1986) introduced the concept of minimum spawning stock and suggested as a conservation objective for the sardine the maintenance of a spawning stock of no less than 2/3 of the virginal spawning biomass. The objectives of this recommendation were to maintain an adequate average recruitment level, to exercise sufficient pressure over other competitive species, and to maintain a greater number of age groups available in the reproductive stock in order to allow it to protect itself from unexpected recruitment problems. At this time, Burd (1987) drew attention to the disappearance of the most fecund ages of the sardine stock and interpreted the diminishment of the first maturity age (one year) as a sign of the stress in the population due to the high levels of mortality from fishing. In the face of the scepticism of the administration, the industry and many national scientists, Deriso (1988) later demonstrated that it was possible to design effective catch policies for the sardine that would allow the objective of conservation to be achieved, despite the great uncertainty surrounding the relationship between stock and recruitment.

The belief that conservation was possible became stronger in later years, as was evident in the work of the technical departments of the Under-Secretariat and the research institute, and in the new legislation which recognized more explicitly a broader range of instruments and conditions for achieving conservation. However, at present the administration still has not incorporated the restoration of depressed stocks as a key objective, except the incorporation in the Fisheries Law of the need to apply different administrative regimes of full exploitation or recovery for incipient fisheries. Positive Actions

The positive actions were: Obstacles

The obstacles were:

2.1.2 Prevention of overfishing

SUBPESCA and the former state agencies that fulfilled the same role in the past understood the regulation of fishing mortality as a means of preventing overfishing. However, as was mentioned in the previous section, in all of the efforts of fisheries administration to conserve pelagic resources by regulation the fishing effort or applying catch quotas, the measures arrived too late or failed for a variety of reasons (low sensitivity of the indicators of the state of the resource, uncertainty of natural processes and knowledge processes, high demand of the fishmeal industry, passive scientific advising etc.).

The possibility of preventing overfishing depends on the ability to anticipate the effects of fishing despite an uncertain environment, which, in turn, depends on the comprehension of the system’s behaviour, based on immediate experiences and the experiences of other locations. SUBPESCA’s lack of proactive behaviour when faced by the overfishing of jack mackerel, after the successive collapses of the anchovy and sardine, shows that the management system is unable to act in a timely and preventive manner. In our opinion the main causes of this problem lie in the poor memory of the key institution (SUBPESCA), in the sacred legislative moorings of the current Fisheries Law, and in the lack of initiative and curiosity in scientific research, which is satisfactory only in that it operates routinely within the administrative process. Positive Actions

None have been identified. Obstacles

There were three major obstacles:

2.1.3 Multi-specific and ecosystemic considerations

The management approach adopted by SUBPESCA in the pelagic fisheries does not explicitly use any multi-specific or ecosystemic conservation criteria or principles in its regulations. The management has been strictly mono-specific; however, multi-specific considerations have appeared in the lines of argument of processors, fishing researchers and administrators in order to support objectives and certain management actions with respect to the anchovy and the sardine. The processors often postulate that there is a competitive relationship between the two species, and based on that hypothesis, the high fishing pressure on the dominant species is justified in that it would create favourable conditions for the growth of the stock size of the other species.

Researchers and administrators have tended to support the opposing thesis, which states that the oceanographic regime shifts are the main cause of the alternation between the species. Either way, these opinions have not changed the management objectives or the design of the stock assessment measures or models. These aspects continue to be discussed in terms of independent stocks and for each objective species. The only attempt that alludes explicitly to objectives and regulations of catch rates is Murphy’s recommendation in the report of Doucet and Murphy (op. cit.) mentioned in the previous section, in which he highlights the sardine’s predation of anchovy eggs and the convenience of diminishing the exploitation of this species in order to achieve a more balanced coexistence of the two populations, as long as the environmental conditions are favourable for the sardine.

At present, the concern for these aspects has almost disappeared from the fishing sector; it only appears in a very sporadic and tangential way in academically-oriented studies on large-scale oceanographic processes. Well-founded studies of the physical and biological variability of the Chile-Peru current system conclude that the marine ecosystems located in current systems of the eastern border are ecotones that are dominated to a great extent by physical processes in which the biological interactions, such as competition and predation, are secondary as regulatory mechanisms of abundance, due to the disruptive effect of changing environmental conditions that do not give the mechanisms the opportunity to act (Bernal, et al. 1983). This vision, which has replaced the extreme hypotheses mentioned previously, backs up the Murphy’s arguments.

The new Fisheries Law bill includes the ecosystem approach among its principles, adhering in this way to the new approaches promoted by the international community through the FAO. Its perspectives are more encouraging than the multi-specific approach given that there are evident interactions in the ecosystem that cannot be evaded, such as the importance of small pelagic fish as a key link in the food chain of marine mammals, marine birds and the coastal species exploited by the artisan fishers. Hence the participation of Chile in the Great Marine Ecosystems project. Positive Actions

Positive actions are: Obstacles

Obstacles are:

2.2 Economic Component of sustainability

2.2.1 Fishing and Processing Capacity

The small pelagic fishery in Chile has been developed since 1957, in response to the high unemployment and social conflicts that resulted from the major crisis of the Chilean nitrate mining industry in the northern zone when natural nitrate was replaced by synthetic nitrate in the international markets. In the port of Iquique, the city hardest hit by poverty, the recent development process of the Peruvian fishing industry was emulated. This development was later extended to other neighbouring cities (Arica and Antofagasta).

Three factors made this development economically possible. First, cheap labour was available because of the Chilean nitrate mining crisis and the migration of unskilled workers from the central zone of the country (Santiago and Valparaíso). Second, the great abundance and coastal concentration of the anchovy resource allowed it to be caught at no more than ten miles of distance from the coast and with yield per haul that justified large-scale exploitation. The third factor was the state subsidy for investment in industrialized fleets and plants, which was supplied by the Corporation for the Promotion of Production (Corporación de Fomento de la Producción, CORFO), a government institution created at the beginning of the 1950s in order to guide and support the industrialization process of the country. In 1958 CORFO allocated US$16 million for easy credit to finance the installation of fishmeal processing plants and the acquisition of vessels. Two years later, the DL No. 266, which was in force until 1976, granted tax advantages that reduced by 90 percent the tax on profits, established duty exemptions for the importation and installation of industrial machinery for a period of 10 years, subject to the condition of reinvesting 75 percent of the profits in the sector.

The actions to promote production provoked the rapid and explosive growth of the fishing effort and the industrial capacity, which was characterized by highly speculative investments and unlimited trust in the potential of fishing resources. The growth peaked in 1965, at which time the industrial complex possessed 37 plants, with a processing capacity of 3.6 million tonnes of raw material per year and a fleet of 251 vessels. The excessiveness of the investment became evident that same year, when the 1965 El Niño phenomenon caused a substantial reduction in the catch, from 1 million to 0.4 million tonnes, causing the paralysis and closing of numerous companies. The response to this first crisis was the suspension of the loans for the installation of new plants and the rejection of new permits for the initiation of activities of fishmeal companies. At the same time, the State offered advantages for the merging and modernization of the companies and financial support to mitigate the social impact of the measures (Zuleta, 1990).

A new crisis occurred in 1972 as a result of El Niño 1972-1973. This oceanic anomaly, more intense than that of 1965, drastically reduced the sizes of the stocks and the catches for two consecutive years, causing the anchovy fishery to collapse. In this period the industry became even more concentrated and the socialist government of the time intervened in the crisis by purchasing companies, and assigning CORFO the task of administrating them. All of these actions were carried out within the framework of a general policy intended to create a social area of the economy constituted by public and private companies that were considered to be strategic. This situation was reverted during the military government that followed the military coup in 1973, which re-privatized the industry, reconstituted the large companies that had dominated production in the past, consolidated the process of economic concentration that had been occurring, and created the conditions for a new growth based on a market economy, the stimulation of exports, the exploitation of comparative advantages, and the principle of the subsidizing role of the State in those areas in which the market was not capable of assigning the productive factors correctly (Caviedes, 1981 y Duhart et al, 1987).

In the northern zone of the country, a second phase of investment associated with the development of the sardine fishery, which replaced the anchovy in the catch, occurred in the 1980s. Given its distribution further offshore, the fleet began to incorporate vessels of greater tonnage and more efficient fishing technology that increased the fishing effort, and the plants improved their processing technology in order to produce fishmeal of higher quality. This period was marked by the spectacular growth of a series of indicators such as the landings, the value of the exports, and the GNP, among others. In the decade of the 1980s, the country reached first place as a fishmeal producer; however, the instability of this development was demonstrated once again when, after the phenomenon El Niño 1982-83, in its most intense manifestation up to the present, the sardine catch started to diminish progressively and the fishery collapsed a second time.

After these two successive industry crises, the fishing authority was not sufficiently interested and willing to intervene in the processes that caused the over-investment, which explains its poor receptivity for the results of the consultants Doucet and Murphy (1986), which made evident the process of over-investment and proposed instruments to control it and improve the economic efficiency of the industry.

After the crisis in the pelagic fishery in the northern zone, a third phase of investment was initiated, based on the exploitation of jack mackerel, this time in the center-south zone of Chile, the region in which this resource was most abundant. Its distribution, which was even broader and further offshore than that of the sardine, required a fleet with vessels of a large hold capacity (up to 1500 m3) and with a system for preserving the catch in order to achieve greater autonomy, in the same way that the requirements of the market led the industry to invest in new, high-technology processing plants for the production of special fishmeals to supply the emerging national salmon-farming industry.

During the decade of the 1990s, despite the change to a democratic government, development continued to be considered a synonym for economic growth. Toward the end of this decade, the situation began to change, economic studies warned about the potential loss of the earnings of the jack mackerel fishery, there was a greater comprehension of the problems of economic inefficiency associated with the over-investment processes, but there still was no agreement with respect to the most efficient administrative instruments to control it. In 1986, the administration passed the DL No. 436 with the goal of freezing the purse seine fleet in regions I, II and VIII, but this measure proved to be late and insufficient to limit the access effectively, given that its on-going application always left some regions open. In the year 2000 the passage of the Fishing Law No. 17913, which introduced individual quotas per ship owner, was a more decided step to solve the problem of the over-investment. With this law, the fishing industry has initiated a readjustment process which has meant the elimination of the “Olympic race” for the catch quota, a reduction by 70 percent of the size of the fleet, the merging of companies, and the continuation of the economic concentration. Positive Actions

Positive actions were: Obstacles

Obstacles are as follows.

2.2.2 Commerce

As an exporting country, Chile follows the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and does not grant the fishing sector any type of subsidy, that is, external support (normally from the State) of any type given in any phase of the productive process of an industry, which allows it to diminish its costs or increase its incomes artificially. In response to the export model implemented by the Chilean government in 1974, the Corporation of Fish Exporters (CORPESCA) was created, with the objective of monitoring favourable commercial opportunities in the international fishmeal markets, safeguarding the transparency of the markets and the quality of the products, respecting the requirements of the WTO and protecting its members from non-tariff barriers.

Until the determination of the maximum catch limit per fleet owner, the authorities did not show much concern for illegal or poorly reported fishing. No estimation of illegal or poorly reported fishing is available, but it was probably significant considering the multi-specific nature of the catches and the deficient means of controlling the close seasons, the proportion of fish under the minimum legal size limit, and the access to restricted fishing zones. The State eventually became motivated to control illegal fishing because the value of the quotas would decrease and the system would lose credibility if it was not controlled.

In order to impede illegal fishing and minimize under-reporting, the Law endowed SERNAPESCA with a catch certification system run by private companies which registered all of the landings of the purse seine vessels. As a nation, Chile seeks to maintain the access to international markets by fulfilling the new requirements of international entities such as CITES. Positive Actions

Positive actions were: Obstacles

No obstacles have been identified.

2.3 Social component of sustainability

2.3.1 Use

During the first phase of the development of the small pelagic fisheries in the northern zone of Chile when the main resource was the anchovy and the stock was abundant, there was never a real incentive to use the catch for anything but fishmeal and fish oil. Only two percent of the catch of this species was canned and a minimum was used for fresh or pickled products. During this period the importance of using this resource for products for human consumption was recognized, given that the lack of protein in the alimentation of the Chilean population was recognized, but it was not proposed as an alternative to fishmeal and fish oil. The government at the time promoted the diversification of the use of the above-mentioned products and others that appeared in the international markets, among which were the protein-concentrates, salted anchovy for canning, edible oils and traditional canned products.

Between 1970 and 1973, this idea turned into concrete actions for a short time when the government of the time created a State organization called the Fishing Sector Committee, whose objective was the development of the fishing industry, the administration of the fishing companies of the social area, and to guarantee the supply of fish for the consumption of the population by means of the Society of Fish Terminals (SOTEPES). Likewise, the development of new alternatives of non-traditional products was explored, for example a project that involved the production of concentrated proteins that could be incorporated in different foods of the diet, such as bread, milk, and others, which launched the Industrial Protein Committee (CPI). However, the pelagic species, compared to the demersal species, were never an adequate prime material for the production of protein concentrates due to their high fat content.

After the crisis of 1972-1973, when the anchovy stock collapsed, the perception of the use changed fundamentally. Sardines and jack mackerel, which had previously been caught only in small volumes by fleets specialized in supplying the canning industry, emerged as alternative species. Only on a few occasions had they been used for the fishmeal industry. In 1985 Gil (op cit) pointed out that “This supposedly rational way of using the pelagic resources hides a dramatic reality unknown by the majority of the population and possibly by the authorities, which is the fact that 80 percent of the prime materials are species that possess high nutritional value, which...should be used completely for human consumption...” The same author stated that the most deplorable aspect of this situation was that the high-quality protein, in the form of chicken and pork, was consumed in Europe and the United States, while the majority of the Chilean population suffered from chronic malnutrition.

In times of scarcity, the industry had a similar perspective. It believed that the development of the fishing industry could not be based on a substantial increase in fishing the traditional species without destroying the resources, and for that reason, it was “absolutely convenient to optimize the use of the prime material that is processed in such a way that higher and higher percentages are gradually used for the preparation of products for human consumption, the demand of the market permitting...” (Izquierdo and Iturriaga, 1985), hoping to increase in this way the national consumption per capita of species of high protein value and low cost. The use of the pelagic resources changed radically in later years when the sardine and jack mackerel species showed an availability that heightened production to an unprecedented level. These species, which had never before been considered for uses that were not associated with human consumption, were used expressly for the production of fishmeal and fish oil. At present the fisheries administration still maintains the priority of optimization, but because it operates within the framework of an export-based and free market economy, it leaves to private companies the decisions about the most convenient commercial option. Positive Actions

Positive actions were: Obstacles

Obstacles are:

2.3.2 Working Conditions

In the beginning of the fishery, the workforce engaged in fishing labour (owners, crew, and motor-operators) had a low level of technical skills and was composed of workers who migrated after the close of the Chilean nitrate mining industry and from the marginalized neighbourhoods of the large cities such as Santiago. These workers began to engage in an inherently difficult, toxic, dangerous, and unhealthy, with high mortality and accident rates that exposed them to a premature physical aging that prevented them from maintaining an active work life up to the legal retirement age (65 years). The labour conditions under which the fishing industry was developed were very precarious and unbearable for the above reasons and the continuous family separation and distancing from their homes, and a workday without a schedule.

In response to this situation, between 1965 and 1968, the first syndicates were organized and the demands and social movements for better work conditions began, culminating in the establishment by the authorities of Regulation 214, which regulates the work conditions aboard the ships. This regulation stipulated an eight-hour workday with a maximum of two hours overtime, alimentation, the hygiene conditions, and the rights and obligations of the captains and crew.

Later, as the fishery developed, especially in the periods of greater abundance, the regulation converted into a factor that diminished the crew’s hopes of a higher income given that they could not work longer than the established workday and take advantage of the incentives offered by the companies for a larger catch. There were direct negotiations between the workers and the companies in order to evade the regulation, which turned into a coercive instrument when the agreement was not fulfilled. The base salary of the fisher was very low, and a majority of their income came from the incentives associated with the volume of the catch. The captains established a goal for the catch, in terms of volume and disregarding quality, and the crew’s jobs and benefits depended on reaching these goals, and they received a payment proportional to the mentioned volume.

At present, with the introduction of the individual catch quotas, the number of vessels in operation has decreased, there is less competition, and the quality of the catch is a priority over the quantity. As a result of the adjustment of the fleet, there are more captains and crew available, the salaries have become fixed and the incentives have disappeared, and the contracts are temporary. All of this leads to less stable and lower-paid jobs than in the past. Positive Actions

Positive actions were: Obstacles

Obstacles are as follows.

2.3.3 Diversification

The State is especially interested in financing projects that involve innovation and the development of marine cultivation in general. To apply for these grants, research groups must form associations with established companies that have committed to apply the results in the production phase, which could even imply the creation of new companies if necessary. Therefore, there are favourable conditions for initiating projects that involve the cultivation of pelagic species, however, these pelagic resources, with few exceptions, have not been of interest for diversifying production by means of cultivation. Even given the dramatic drops in the stocks, these resources have not been sufficiently scarce in order to lead to their cultivation as an alternative to fishing activities. It does not seem reasonable to reproduce artificially in a controlled environment the natural conditions present in abundance in the upwelling systems given that high production costs make companies unprofitable.

At present, the only successful project is the cultivation of anchovy larva in order to obtain a valuable salted dried product for the Japanese market. Positive Actions

A positive action is the availability of funds for projects of innovation and development, for the possible creation of companies. Obstacles

An obstacle is the lack of high-level ecologic and genetic research in order to sustain the development of cultivation technologies in controlled environments and the development of projects of ecosystem intervention with the goal of recuperating or increasing wild stocks.

2.3.4 Technical Support

Despite the high level of development the Chilean fishing industry has reached, the concept of giving technical support to under-developed countries has not been internalized. There are government initiatives to give technical support to Central American and Caribbean countries, and as a result small fishing missions have been carried out, but technical support is not an active and permanent concern at this time. Positive Actions

A positive action was the creation of the Government Agency for International Cooperation (Agencia Gubernamental para la Cooperación Internacional, AGCI), to promote technical support to other countries of the region. Obstacles

An obstacle is the lack of economic resources to finance technical support projects.

2.4 Institutional Factors of Sustainability

2.4.1 Scientific Information

The importance of scientific information for the management of national fisheries, and in particular the small pelagic species, was recognized early on. The founding in 1964 of the main national fishing research institution, the Institute for the Promotion of Fishing (Instituto de Fomento Pesquero, IFOP), was part of the same set of development policies and incentives, applied by the government of that period, that gave impetus to the fishmeal processing industry in the northern zone of the country.

IFOP was created with the collaboration of the UNDP and the FAO with the objective of carrying out research on marine resources, fishing oceanography, improvement of fishing methods and processing, fisheries economy and sales of fish products, among others.

After a decade of research, there were advances in knowledge of the distribution, abundance, and parameters of the life cycle of the main economically important species, but there was less progress in environmental knowledge and almost none in the stock assessment and the design of administrative measures. The use of stock assessment is more recent, it was initiated at the beginning of the 1980s with a program of stock assessment of the main pelagic resources based on catch at age method (VPA) and acoustic estimations of the size of the stock. These were chosen due to the limitations of the methods based on catch and effort data, inherent to the hyperstable behaviour of the Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE). In later years, the Eggs Production Method was incorporated, the VPA was replaced by ADAPT and more recently by statistical catch at age methods similar to CAGEAN.

After the first economic studies on the development of the industry and the markets, this research has not progressed beyond a very preliminary descriptive and analytic phase. Studies of bioeconomic processes are still an incipient area of Chile’s national fishery research, among them are some studies carried out on small pelagic fisheries. The evaluation of cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and the socioeconomic effects of the administrative measures are still unexplored research topics. The same could be said of the evaluation of performance and the usefulness of the measures adopted. Positive actions

Positive actions were: Obstacles

Obstacles were:

2.4.2 Precautionary Approach

Chile has accepted the general principles and norms of the precautionary approach, however, there is still much to do in order to achieve the practical and operational value of these concepts within the framework of the law, the fisheries legislation and the sectoral policies of the country.

Chile has ratified the conventional nucleus of the precautionary approach (Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Convention on Biological Diversity), the main instruments linked to the application of the precautionary approach (Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources on the High Seas of the South Pacific and the Convention for the Prohibition of Fishing with Long Driftnets Nets in the South Pacific) and other instruments that share the basic conceptual framework of the precautionary approach (Río Declaration on Environment and Development and Agenda 21). In addition, Chile has been part of the Core Group of participating countries in the negotiations of the New York UN Agreement on Fishing in the High Seas, which recommends that the States apply the precautionary approach to the administration and exploitation of the fisheries (Hernández, 1998).

All things considered, the incorporation of the precautionary approach in the small pelagic fisheries and the Chilean fisheries in general has been marked by the transzonal nature (anchovy and sardine stock, shared with Peru) and highly migratory behaviour (jack mackerel) of some of its resources, and to a lesser extent, by the concepts of sustainable development and the preventive and timely action that the management of these resources within the EEZ demands. Positive Actions

Positive actions were as follows: Obstacles

Obstacles are as follows.

2.4.3 Monitoring, control and surveillance

The monitoring of the pelagic fisheries was initiated with the creation of the Fishing Promotion Institute (IFOP). The programs of biological sampling and catch and effort surveys were focused on the dominant species in the catch (anchovy, sardine, and jack mackerel). Statistical sampling plans of the anchovy fishery which was designed early on served later as the model for the other fisheries (Tomlinson). Coastal sampling laboratories were implemented with CORFO funding in the main unloading ports (Arica, Iquique and Talcahuano). At present, CORFO’s support has been suspended, but the monitoring continues under the supervision of IFOP and the funding is now the responsibility of the Fisheries Under-Secretariat.

The supervision of the landings has been a task assigned to the National Fisheries Service (SERNAPESCA), as the authority responsible for the publication of national fisheries statistics in the Statistical Yearbook. This government institution also controls the catch quotas and enforces the regulation norms (bans, minimum sizes, etc.). In recent years, with the generalization of the global quota system and its allocation by means of individual quotas, private companies have taken on the task of certifying the catch, reinforcing the existing system.

Surveillance has been in the hands of the Chilean Navy, which has assumed this task within the framework of its activities. Recently the surveillance activities have been strengthened by the incorporation of a satellite positioning device in the vessels of the fleet and the establishment of an EEZ satellite surveillance system of the Maritime Territory Department of the Navy (Dirección de Territorio Marítimo de la Armada DIRECTEMAR), which, used in coordination with SERNAPESCA, has permitted effective enforcement of the five-mile maritime zone reserved for the artisan fishermen. Positive Actions

Positive actions are: Obstacles

Obstacles are as follows.

2.4.4 Decision-making process

The government institutions associated with the fishing sector have developed as a result of the importance that fishing and aquaculture have acquired in the national economy. The three basic roles of public administration directly related to the management and development of fishing activity are promotion, regulation and enforcement. The first has been an on-going, permanent role of CORFO, while the other two, which are related to fisheries administration, were formerly carried out by the Agriculture and Livestock Service of the Ministry of Agriculture, which was not focused on or specialized in fisheries management, until the restructuring of the public fishing sector in 1976.

The reorganization of the government institutions associated with fisheries in 1976 led to the creation of the current institutions and the assignment of the tasks of fisheries administration to different institutions, two of which were created within the Ministry of Economy, Promotion and Reconstruction: the Fisheries Under-Secretariat (Subsecretaría de Pesca, SUBPESCA) would handle regulation and management, while the National Fisheries Service (Servicio Nacional de Pesca, SERNAPESCA) would handle enforcement and control. Fisheries research and scientific advising for the fisheries management, which are linked to the other roles, would continue in the hands of the Institute for Fisheries Promotion (Instituto de Fomento Pesquero, IFOP), but would be made more and more dependent upon the Fisheries Under-Secretariat, in order to weaken the role of scientific support in the tasks associated with promotion, which had been important while IFOP was under the management of CORFO. The Zonal Fishing Councils and the National Fishing Council, which were created with the passage of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Law of 1991, completed the institutional structure of fisheries administration.

The fisheries management system has made significant process in the past 20 years. At the beginning of the fishery, it was a primordial system, constituted by the research and administration agencies, without established management proceedings, little formal participation of the users and limited to reactions instead of proactive behaviour when faced by crises; and it evolved toward the current, more complete system, with institutionally differentiated administrative roles, users who are incorporated in the decision-making process by means of the councils and with an organization dedicated primarily to the determination of Total Allowable Catches by means of a formal and integrated management proceeding that involves an annual cycle of evaluation, regulation and control. Positive Actions

Positive actions were as follows. Obstacles

Obstacles were as follows.


Factors of unsustainability are as follows.

1. The subsidies were transitory factors that promoted the development of the fishery and were important in its origin. However, beyond the initial thrust that they gave to its development, the banking system’s excessive and constant financial support, based on unrealistic expectations of the abundance, and the application of high discount rates for the investment projects had a significant distorting effect on investment.

2. The policy of free access and the promotion of foreign investment have been the driving forces that historically have dominated the scene of fishing development. The efforts that have been made until now to control the investment process have not been sufficient and the different manifestations of the prevailing neo-liberal economic model constantly threaten the timid advances that have been achieved. In particular, the policy of opening the country to external capitals, which has been one of the pillars of economic growth of all of the presidential administrations in the past 40 years, has generated a propitious framework to continue a policy of free access, although in the practice a majority of the investment comes from within.

3. The social inequity of the economic rationalizations applied in each crisis. By means of the optimization of the costs, these rationalizations have stimulated the concentration of the industry in the hands of a select group, mainly favouring the industrialized sector and transferring a good part of the costs to the State and the local communities that depend on fishing. There is notorious social inequity in these practices: while the profits are for private use, the costs are shared.

4. The high demand in external markets, and recently in the domestic salmon feed industry, for limited and very accessible fisheries resources is an ever-present factor of unsustainability; however, an equally important but less evident factor has been the “virtual” demand of the financial markets that exacerbated the pressure for short-term exploitation. An important portion of the capital generated by the fishing industry became separate from the productive process and the real markets, transforming into “paper fish” that the speculative financial management multiplied various times.

5. The little relevance that the objectives of equity and conservation have had in the policies for the development of the fishery, as compared to the key objectives of growth and economic efficiency. To achieve a compromise among multiple objectives is a difficult task. On one hand, the search for economic growth has caused an increase in the catches with the consequent risk for conservation. On the other hand, an increase of competition often leads to the concentration of property and capitals to the detriment of a more equitable distribution of the activity’s benefits. The sectors that work in industrialized and artisanal fishing are particularly vulnerable to this type of inequality, which generates poverty and affects job alternatives and quality of life.

6. Given the scenario of open access, the price of fishmeal has tended to increase while the costs of the effort have remained low. The combination of these two trends, together with the high technological efficiency of the fishing operations and the environmentally-induced fluctuations in the abundance, have generated biological overfishing and the successive collapses of the main resources that have sustained the fishery through the years.

7. The existence of weak institutions in the public fishing sector, lacking in technical knowledge, strategic planning abilities and authorities able to resolve controversies, together with the necessity of better organized opportunities for participation that could serve as channels for multiple conflicts of interests principally at the regional and local levels.

8. A rigid legislative framework with excessive regulatory details that tend to produce difficulties in its revision and adaptation to new emerging situations and without an adequate incorporation of the precautionary approach and the ecosystem approach. In addition, the lack of regulations and management proceedings established by the administration in order to implement the principles and concepts of the precautionary and ecosystem approach, to incorporate them further into the decision-making process and implement them through regulations.

9. The weakness of fisheries research. There are at least two important elements. In the first place, the crisis of the sequential paradigm of the research-action pair, that is, the concept that there is a linear sequence from knowledge to action which starts with scientific knowledge that is validated by its own methods, before the action, and then applied. At present, the concurrence or simultaneity of the research and the action has been very important in the management of fisheries resources. The crisis of the sequential paradigm is evident in the reactive nature of research, in the paralysis or dilation of action, the solution of specific problems, the improvisation, the excessive emphasis on the implementation of the routine management proceedings related to the calculation of the TAC to the detriment of research oriented toward problems and processes. Second, the reductionist approach, in contrast to the systemic approach, which eludes the complexity of the fishery and the fishery management system.

10. The weakness of the scientific advising, which is evident in the lack of organization, in the management of the uncertainty of the stock assessment.

11. The simultaneous processes of centralization and isolation of fishing affairs, which make it difficult to visualize the interactions of the fishing sector with other economic sectors and to coordinate policies and actions that contribute to a generalized economic development.


Paths to a solution are as follows.

1. Both the positive role of investment in the take-off of the industry and the threat of over-investment to sustainability have been mentioned. The investment can be excessive in fleets and plants, but investment in infrastructure, research and the development of human capital (for example education and training of artisan fishermen and the industry’s workers) is also important. The investment in these factors is necessary and should be stimulated. A growth policy is an investment policy, and an investment policy directed at obtaining profits should make the decision to invest profitable for each company. This means establishing some type of subsidy in support of this type of investment that contributes to the sustainable growth of productivity.

2. The control of the factors that determine the discount rates is beyond the scope of the administrative measures of the fishing sector and is a topic whose solution is not easily imaginable. It is not possible to make the same observation with respect to the overly optimistic expectations of the sizes of the stocks, which could be corrected by supplying better information to the financial system on the state of the stocks of the resources and their future projections, with the goal that it be considered in the economic evaluation of investment projects.

3. The perfecting and consolidating of the individual quota system recently implemented by the fisheries law under the name of maximum catch limits per fleet owner, with respect to aspects such as their transferable and temporary nature, collective allocations to local communities and to artisan fisher groups, transparency in the legislative process, mechanisms that ensure the entrance of new economic agents.

4. The lack of markets for the catch in which the optimization by means of prices/quality is favoured instead of the optimization via the costs, which has prevailed. This factor will be especially important in the future due to the growing contribution of the artisan sector to the supply of the industry, both for fishmeal and for products for direct human consumption. To create first hand auction markets for the artisan fishers’ catch could be a stimulus for innovation, the improvement of quality, and the entrance of new agents who can compete through prices. This should be supported by a government policy oriented toward promoting value in the market for the catches.

5. The immediate solution to the growing demand for limited resources is the limitation of the exploitation rate to sustainable levels, that is, regulates the supply. Evidently this is very difficult to achieve given the increasing prices that tend to motivate further exploitation, which are exacerbated by the tendency of the resources to fluctuate highly. One way to protect the community associated with the industry is to save the extra income from the resource, which is produced by the introduction of the allocation mechanisms mentioned previously and introducing mechanisms for an inter-seasonal redistribution of the profits that could mitigate the social and economic consequences in times of scarcity and unemployment, creating a stabilizing fund for this purpose.

6. Part of the social problems and inequity could be resolved with such a stabilizing fund, but there would still be structural imbalances that would tend to perpetuate and augment the distributive inequality that generates tensions and poverty. A government concerned about social equity and the maintenance of sustained growth in the long term would actively seek to reduce the inequalities by promoting a legislative framework that would regulate the relationship between workers and entrepreneurs in a stable and consensual way, support labour organizations and negotiating opportunities, improve the redistribution of the income and promote the development of human capital.

7. Ensure that technical regulatory institutions acquire solvency and technical excellence that allows them to turn into an effective arbitrator among the other actors in the decision-making process by incorporating qualified and well-paid personnel and offering them appropriate promotion opportunities.

8. The capacity-building of administrative entities in order to create State policies that lead to long-term Fishing Policies and Management Plans, which would transcend the political and time-related limitations of a presidential administration and achieve high levels of consensus that would ensure their prolonged stability.

9. The creation of a system for participation that would organize spaces that would allow not only the users but also common citizens to participate effectively in designing policies for conservation, efficient and equitable resource use and holding the fishing sector authorities accountable. This same system would provide the relevant information that would stimulate participation and the formation of opinions.

10. In the legislative area, promote the development of a framework law that would indicate the main elements and principles of the precautionary and ecosystem approaches that should take shape in the regulations and management proceedings, which would allow these approaches to be implemented in the administrative area and the decision-making process.

11. Promote a more participatory, collaborative and transparent system of scientific research and advice, in accordance with the international recognition to which Chile aspires, which would improve the quality of the decisions in the context of the requirements imposed by a market economy that tends toward higher and higher levels of globalization.


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[30] The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author, Alejandro Zuleta V., Centro de Estudios Pesqueros, Universidad Austral de Chile. Valparaíso, Chile
[31] DL is the acronym for “Decreto Ley,” which is an executive ordinance dictated without any participation of the legislative body.

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