The butcher’s bill: death a month average for Chile’s Wild West-style aquaculture industry

Matthew Wilcox

Chile has the highest mortality rate of salmon workers worldwide.

Chile’s Ecocéanos Center has released first findings from a report on occupational mortality in the the country’s salmon industry.

The report finds that in 2021, 14 workers died in across the sector, with precarious prevailing working conditions, the prevalence of temporary contracts, and a frightening lack of government oversight, all as contributing factors.

This follows almost a decade of increasing mortality of workers in the industry, with, on average, one worker killed per month, with ages fluctuating anywhere from 19 to 63 years old.

Read more: Worker stabbed to death in brutal killing at salmon farm in Chile

Among the causes of occupational mortality during 2021 were electrocution in processing plants and farm sites (2), crushing in the movement of underwater counterweights of rafts-cages (2), entrapment in boat propeller (1),  burns (1), submersion suffocation (2), quarrel at work (1), suicide at site (1), complications (1).

As the report points out, “this dramatic situation confirms the denunciations about low standards of occupational safety, the complicity of the Chilean supervisory authorities, and the double labor standards of transnational corporations operating in the coastal regions of southern Chile.”

The worst offender for worker mortality is Los Fjords/AquaChile, with 42 per cent of cases. Other companies to suffer mortalities include Mowi, Marine Farm Pacific Star, Salmones Austral, Blumar, Oceanrob and the Detroit shipping company.

Juan Carlos Cárdenas, director of the Ecocéanos Center indicated that “the high mortality and accident rates demonstrate the precarious occupational safety conditions prevailing in the world’s second largest producer … Chile is the producer of farmed salmon with the highest mortality and accident rate worldwide. In turn, it is the salmon exporting country with the longest working hours, the lowest wages, the greatest violations of the maternity and gender rights of its workers, and where there is a high precariousness of work, through the use of subcontractor companies, temporary contracts, where repetitive work prevails under humid conditions and low temperatures.”


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