International
The spiny rock lobster native to the Juan Fernandéz Archipelago All photos: Mauricio Altamirano, Oceana Chile

How Chile's Environment Policy Is Good for Fish, and for Business

The country's science-based approach shows fishing can be environmentally sustainable.

This article is adapted from AQ's latest issue on the politics of water in Latin America

About 400 miles from shore, a small fishing community in Chile’s Juan Fernández Archipelago makes its living from a species unique to the islands: the Juan Fernández spiny rock lobster. The area is a national park, but in the 2000s, marine life was showing signs of stress. Catches started to dwindle, threatening the community’s livelihood.

Bottom trawling, an industrial fishing practice in which heavy equipment is dragged across the ocean floor, was permitted just a few miles offshore, tearing up coral banks and destroying habitats. In 2009, a group of scientists started working with the fishers to find a solution.

Their victory came in 2012 after extensive campaigning, when Chile’s Congress banned bottom trawling from all of its 118 seamounts, giving the lobster — and the local fishing economy — a chance to recover.

[Petsko is a writer for Oceana, an international nonprofit dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. She is based in Washington, D.C.]

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