VALPARAÍSO – A majority in the House of Representatives voted Tuesday, Nov. 24, in favor of annulling the Fishing Law, a controversial law that divides fishing rights among a small group of big companies. While outside hundreds of people protested against the law, inside the building 81 representatives voted in favor. The government has announced it will appeal to the Constitutional Court as representatives do not have the power to nullify laws.
With 81 representatives voting in favor, 46 voting against, and 12 absent, Chile’s House of Representatives voted on Tuesday in favor of nullifying the Fishing Law. Shortly after the bill passed, Juan José Ossa, Undersecretary of the Presidency, announced the government would appeal to the Constitutional Court, because representatives according to the current Constitution “can’t nullify laws.”
According to Ossa, the decision to appeal has to do with the fact that the House tried to nullify a law, not the law itself. The decision to appeal to the Constitutional Court generated outcry among the fishing community who had protested outside the Congressional building in Valparaíso, especially as it’s the second time in one week that the government has said that it would use this vehicle to fight a bill approved in the House. On Sunday, Nov. 22, the government said it would appeal the second pension withdrawal to the court.
#ChaoLeyLongueira ✅ Aprobamos en la Cámara la anulación de la corrupta Ley de Pesca, y seguiremos trabajando para que se concrete aunque el Gobierno amenace con el TC. ¡Bien por las caletas y por Chile! pic.twitter.com/8hc4PgHBDa
— Jorge Brito Diputado ✸ (@jorbritoh) November 24, 2020
The Fishing Law: Seven Companies, One Ocean
Modification of the Fishing Law was one of the campaign promises of President Sebastián Piñera in 2017. In the Fishing Law, approved in 2012, only seven major fishing companies obtained the right to fish indefinitely in Chilean waters. It became known as the Longueira law, after Pablo Longueira who served as Economy Minister during Piñera’s first term. In 2018, Piñera discussed modifying the law by reducing the fishing concessions to 20 years, something smaller fishing interests and opposition members did not consider sufficient.
So-called artisanal fishermen and women are only allowed to fish with small ships and up to certain quantities. They complain that due to the overfishing by those with fishing rights, there is huge environmental damage, up to and including species extinction.
Another major stain on the Fishing Law is how the seven major companies obtained the rights. Over the years, evidence emerged of illicit payments to representatives and senators from the fishing industry, indicating bribery to approve the law back in 2012. Chileans saw in the approval of the law another confirmation that under the current system, families with money could buy literally anything and divide it as they wish.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.