Chilean fishermen on strike as jobs are in danger

CONCEPCIÓN – Workers in the fishing industry have gone on strike to demand the government to reconsider a bill about catching cuttlefish. They pursue this measure to keep their fishing method save.

About 3,000 workers of the fishing industry expressed their discontent about a fishing bill. The resolution in which cuttlefish fishing becomes an exclusive right of artisan fishers was first discussed in 2014, but its now under debate in the Deputies’ Chamber. Workers argue that the motion presented to congress represents a big problem since fishing generates around 8,000 jobs.

Captains, officers and workers of fishing companies protested in the regions of Coquimbo and Biobío. During the pacific manifestation they demanded congress to repeal a law that allows cuttlefish trawling just for artisan fishery. According to Diario Concepción, the Biobío fisher union president Hugo Roa remarked: “the lay is for tender 100% of fish markets. That means we will lose our jobs, and we won’t tolerate it.”

Roa also expressed that reducing the activity to artisan fishery ignores trawling as a method used for over 60 years with no alterations of fishing grounds. Talcahuano mayor Henry Campos, in a show of support, also asked parliamentarians to consider the great income source that trawling represents in the Biobío region. He said that there are different points of view about fishing, but employment must be the most important aspect.

For its part national fishing association SONAPESCA pointed out that the reopening of the debate about the law is more a political decision than a technical improvement. Sponsors of the bill argue that cuttlefish trawling is unsustainable, but according to SONAPESCA this is not true, so fishers consider the law arbitrary and discriminating against the sector. According to SONAPESCA the right of performing an economic activity is being violated with the measure.

SONAPESCA also argues that the new ordinance doesn’t consider current fishing law, in which allows ship-owners keep the fishing method they have. Besides, the new project presents measures for sustainability related to the vulnerability of sea ecosystems and special regulations of fishing that consider fishing itself a negative activity. Since industrial fishing represents 20% of the economy, the sector expects more equal treatment so they can keep producing for the country.

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