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It's time to silence Patagonia

Outdoor clothing maker Patagonia is going after the Chilean salmon farming sector. ASC, GAA, Monterey, GSI, SalmonChile: will you defend against this attack?

Even if outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia isn't successful in curtailing salmon farming in Chile, its new campaign against the world's second largest supplier of farmed salmon will emit back out into the universe all of those old, tired criticisms of aquaculture and give them new life and new legitimacy.

"Sound familiar? It's the same garbage peddled by salmon farming opponents everywhere."

The company, which recently launched the documentary Artifishal, in which it questions the wild-salmon hatchery system in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and partly blames salmon farming for declining wild salmon stocks, hopes its new documentary, "Estado Salmonero," can curb the expansion of the Chilean salmon farming sector, particularly in the Magallanes region.

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Patagonia Chile is asking people to sign a petition to ban the expansion of salmon farming in Magallanes, particularly into the Beagle Canal, where salmon farming Nova Austral recently acquired concessions.

Over 46,000 have now signed the petition, which in part makes these claims: "[Salmon farming] involves the introduction of exotic species in cages; the abuse of antibiotics, antiparasitics and other chemical substances; the introduction and spread of diseases and their causal agents; the accumulation of solid and liquid waste on the seabed; negative direct and indirect interactions with marine mammals and birds...[and is] highly damaging to our environment and [does] not contribute or generate jobs or local production."

Sound familiar? It's the same garbage peddled by salmon farming opponents everywhere.

Whether Patagonia succeeds in stemming the growth of salmon farming in Magallanes or elsewhere, it will surely shine new negative attention on salmon farming, at a time when much of the old myths about the sector are giving way to a more educated and informed picture of one of the world's most successful food production systems.

The question is, will the industry rally behind Chile -- and all of salmon farming? Will it mobilize and defend itself?

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Unlike in the 1990s and 2000s, the industry today is better equipped to respond with truth. The Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) and its Best Aquaculture Practice (BAP) certification and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) need to rise up and defend the farming companies, many of which they have bestowed with their sustainability stamp of approval.

In March, the Chilean association of salmon farmers, SalmonChile, the Chilean Salmon Marketing Council (CSMC) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to form the Chilean Salmon Antibiotic Reduction Program, with a commitment to reduce antibiotic use 50 percent by 2025. This formidable force needs to respond to Patagonia's antics.

The Global Salmon Initiative (GSI) needs to show some teeth and defend the industry that in May it boasted about by saying: sea lice treatments of its 14 member companies have been cut in half over the last six years, while the use of non-medicinal treatments surged 120 percent.

Will these industry leaders rise up, or will they just remain silent and let a jacket-maker roll all over them? In particular we should be watching what Monterey Bay, WWF and other NGOs do here. They have giant megaphones and a perceived integrity that should be brought to this discussion, given that they have been a key part of the industry's efforts to improve.

In this instance, silence is not -- in any way -- golden.

Any comments, complaints, retaliatory rants, please feel free to email me at john.fiorillo@intrafish.com.

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