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There does already exist a research programme (Programa de investigación para poblaciones de algas marinas bentónicas) and a management project (Termino de referencia proyecto: “Manejo de recursos algas rojas”), worked out within the Subsecretaría de Pesca.

These programmes document a plan of action for the Subsecretaría de Pesca for the years 1980–1986 which includes the financing of comprehensive studies estimated at Pesos 38 000 800.

The studies indicated in the first stage of this programme are now being conducted. Their main objective is to obtain background information for a future management plan. Various opinions expressed in this report are already stated in the existing working plans.


Present policy is to derive a maximum benefit from the resource over a continuous period.

The fishery policy is also part of the general policy of free market, decentralization and assistance to the poorest group in society. The seaweed collectors belong to this group. In addition, many unemployed, previously miners or those without any professional training, turn their hand to seaweed harvesting, at least periodically. It is difficult to place them in the social system, particularly as a considerable number spend only the spring and summer at the beaches or estuaries. The social problems include not only low incomes and poor housing, but also the consequences of an ambulatory life and little ambition; excess of alcohol, irregular schooling of the children, etc. As a result, the seaweed resource problem is very much a social one, and is recognized as such by all authorities concerned. It seems that they all are unanimous in the belief that the long term solution must be education to higher competence and motivation.

The viscious circle is that, if the algal resources are protected by limited access to the hitherto free resource, the social problems will increase; but if the social problem of unemployment is solved by free access for all to the seaweed beds, these will be diminished or extinguished. Socially, it is a group of poor people - the already established fishermen and seaweed collectors - who will have to share their proverty.

It is reasonable to assume that the collectors would earn more if they were not so numerous. However, is it important that the seaweed is paid its full value. In the Maullín area, where each boat catches 500–1 000 kg/day, and on a good day two men in a boat may collect 2 t in 4 h, the price on the beach is as low as Pesos 3–4/kg of the beach-dried product with 40–60 percent humidity. This may depend on low quality or high transport costs, or the fact that the companies pay the minimum sum possible for each shipment.

Beach prices and export prices indicate very broad margins. If the fishermen were paid 50–100 percent more, the companies profit margins would still be high. Yet, if they were paid so much better within the present system the beaches would attract still more people, and the prices decrease even more. What is needed is a management which puts the fishermen into a position where he can negotiate.

The resource conservation problem and the social problems of the seaweed fishery are both a consequence mainly of the fact that this fishery has served as an employment of last resort. It is recognized that the algal sector as all other sectors in society should assist in the efforts to overcome the problems of the most vulnerable groups of society, but it should not theoretically and cannot practically be the responsibility of fishery bodies to solve the social problem.

It seems inevitable that the first approach has to be to limit the number of people working in the various seaweed beds (praderas) to a reasonable maximum by licensing the right to collect. In doing so, it is not necessary to reserve the right to year-round settled people. On the contrary it could be reasonable to reserve a certain quota for seasonal workers, and maybe even to protect the beds completely during winter and spring.

If there are vast beds of high quality Gracilaria on tidal flats in the southern part of the X Region (as assumed but not investigated), this resource could be offered for exploitation to the supernumerous collectors harvesting elsewhere.


In considering the drafting of a management policy for the seaweed resources of Chile, it is striking how different the problems are in different parts of the country.

In Piedra Azul, X Region, one of the southernmost beaches visited, the tidal amplitude is large enough to permit hand collection. Every 15 days at low tides, the entire bed is dry, and all of it is harvested by hand. The collectors tear off the Gracilaria plants in a way that leaves the bases behind, as the sand is hard enough to retain them. Some 400–2 000 persons are collecting, depending on the month of the year. As there are 7 km2 of algae and the harvesting method allows fast regrowth, the resource is sufficient. This is the only known exploited bed in the country where this ideal collecting method is feasible, although there may be others further south. At present there seems to be no conservation problem, but housing is extremely poor. Families live in huts or tents made of driftwood and polyethylene sheets. It may be that this is only seasonal accommodation, but the region is generally cold, wet and windy.

The estuary of Maullín (X Region) may have the largest population of collectors, up to 3 000 persons of which 2 600 actually harvest. The tidal amplitude is moderate within this extremely large estuary; the Gracilaria is fished in 1–4 m depth mostly with “spiders” (aranas) towed after boats. Judging from the quantities obtained in a short time, the resource was not overharvested. The fishermen's cooperative was worried about the concession of an area within the estuary given to Chile Exportaciones under the pretext that there was no natural growth, and the company should develop this area. According to the fishermen, there is a natural growth of Gracilaria, and they regard the concession as the authority giving away a common property as a private property.

Isla Santa María, Tubul and other beds in the VIII Region have a common problem due to the decline in the coalmining activities of the area which has caused unemployment, and led to miners and others joining the group of local fishermen.

In the IV Region a proposal was made for fencing-in beaches, subdividing them and granting concessions to companies and cooperatives, which would then be responsible each for their section. It is doubtful if the fencing or the division would arouse enthusiasm in regions other than the IV Region. One small beach in Baya La Herradura is part of Coquimbo and has a very high recreational value, so great that this should be given priority in case of a conflict between interests.

In conclusion, the problems differ according to area, and it seems most reasonable that decisions regarding the management of the seaweed resources are decentralized as far as possible and determined by local authorities.


There is pressure on the authorities to give concessions to companies, cooperatives and private persons, excluding others. Such concessions are not foreseen in Decree No. 37, and are at present given only for areas where there is allegedly no growth of Gracilaria. At present 16 concessions are given on a total of 2.4 km2.

Various proposals are that all beds should be allotted such that it is in the interests of those most closely concerned that the bed is properly protected. If a concession holder fails to maintain the biomass, the concession should be taken away from him.

At present, such judgements are not possible, as little or nothing is known about the reasons for changes in bed size or biomass density. Part of a bed can be buried under moving sand, another weighed to the bottom by loads of fish eggs or mussels. A pollution or a change in salinity may affect the growth conditions.

The present system of authorizing the extraction of a certain quantity from a bed is far from having a biological foundation. In waters with distinct seasonal differences, like the northern Adriatic, Gracilaria will often disappear completely during winter, leaving only the buried basal parts. In spring these grow again, and the reproduction is essentially vegetative. Where this is the growth pattern of this very particular species, it would in principle be feasible to collect the entire biomass, possibly protecting the alga during the initial growth period to let it obtain maximum biomass. The Chilean authorizations are founded on a not explained assumption that 30 percent of the biomass is the sustainable yield of the Gracilaria beds.

It could be that the only circumstance of importance is that the harvesting is carried out in a way which leaves as much as possible of the basal parts to regenerate, and that, if this is done, there is no reason not to harvest the resource as long as the collectors find it profitable. At present, however, the only conclusion is that it is premature to lay down new regulations until data are available on regrowth after harvesting using different tools and leaving different quantities.


Biological information on regrowth after harvesting, which is required for a new legislation, still has to be collected.

The regional and local differences in needs and demands, in social aspects, in requirements for access to beaches, in species composition and even in tidal amplitude, are so great that greatest possible decentralization of management responsibilities is proposed, including the right to make local regulations.

The present system could be used until the necessary information is available, but some immediate changes are recommended:

The scientific investigations desirable as background for legislation and for the development of the resources are in particular:

Investigations are also required to develop regions or resources:

The resources of Gracilaria, Ahnfeltia and other algae of the southern part of the X Region will shortly come into an entirely new context when the new highway through the region opens. There are no data on the quantities of these resources and a survey is recommended.

Lessonia is the species largest in tonnage but about which little is written and little is known from point of view of its possible social aspects.

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