On August 4, Chilean lawmakers voted unanimously to overhaul the country’s water code, a leftover from Augusto Pinochet’s 1980s regime.
The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically increased reliance on single-use plastics, resulting in a plastics pollution crisis faced by many countries around the world. A French environmental nongovernmental organization recently released a video showing masks and gloves littering the seabed of the Mediterranean Sea.
Chile has finalized an agreement to publicly share data from its satellite system for monitoring fishing boats to, among other things, support its disease prevention program. The country will share the data through an online interactive mapping platform called Global Fishing Watch that tracks ship movements across the globe. The data will enable fisheries managers to monitor vessels to help prevent the spread of disease in the salmon aquaculture industry and to keep an eye on Chile's jack mackerel population.
President Michelle Bachelet officially created a 286,000-square mile marine reserve around Easter Island. The intent is to protect the dozens of species native only to the area. The Rapa Nui Rahui Marine Protected Area restricts commercial fishing and underwater mining, while allowing local artisanal fishermen to continue with their craft. Seventy-three percent of voters on the island chose to approve the park. According to environmental organizations backing the designation, at least 142 fish species in the protected area occur nowhere else.
Chile, the world's top copper-producing nation, is embarking on a fact-finding mission with the intention of restarting cobalt production after more than 50 years. Metals like lithium and copper are becoming a thing of the past as cobalt is a key component in the new breed of rechargeable batteries. The demand for cobalt is set to increase 34% until 2026 as electric cars gain a bigger share of the global car market. The cobalt market is currently dominated by the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has more than half of global production.
An appeals court in Chile ordered Sernapesca, the government's fisheries body, to disclose antibiotic use among salmon producers. Chile is the world's second-largest producer of salmon, and farmers use record levels of antibiotics to treat salmon bacteria. The waters surrounding Chile are filled with SRS, a bacteria that kills fish and causes them lesions and hemorrhaging. Antibiotic use among Chilean salmon farmers has risen by 25% since 2013, as farmers are unable to develop an effective vaccine. In 2014, the salmon industry used 1.2 million pounds of antibiotics.
Chile's Environmental Court ruled in favor of the Barrick Gold Corporation on March 23 in a case emblematic of the country's political debate over glacier protection. Local farmers and environmental organizations claimed the company's Pascua-Lama gold and silver mining project is harming three glaciers and their associated watersheds. The Santiago court determined that Barrick has not harmed glaciers within its "area of influence." The Pascua-Lama project has been on hold ever since low gold prices and political and regulatory hurdles sidelined it in October of 2013.
Chilean lawmakers have proposed a bill that would protect 80 percent of the country's glaciers by prohibiting commercial activity on them within Chile's national parks. The proposal comes after government officials and Congress agreed to work together to pass the legislation. Large mining projects, particularly copper mines, would be affected by the law. Chile is the world's largest exporter of copper. Though permits already issued would not be revoked, current operations could be required to take additional mitigation measures.
Chile is set to become the first country in South America—and the second in Latin America after Mexico—to institute a carbon tax. The tax, which will go before the Chilean House of Representatives this week, would impose a $5 tax per ton of carbon dioxide starting in 2017. The measure is part of a broader package intended to reduce air pollution that also includes taxes on particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide. The Chilean government hopes that the financial burden of using fossil fuels will encourage greater investment in renewable energy.
Last week, Chilean lawmakers approved an initiative to ban trawling, a method of fishing that involves pulling a net through the water behind boats. The draft agreement, which would prohibit trawling within Chile’s exclusive economic zone and territorial sea, pointed to the damage the use of trawl nets can do to marine ecosystems.