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Toward marine democracy in Chile: Examining aquaculture ecological impacts through common property local ecological knowledge

The preferential treatment of the aquaculture industry over fisheries and marine protected areas in Chile through the demarcation of the Areas Appropriate for Aquaculture has set it on a collision course with conservation, artisanal fishing and coastal communities.

This article shows how marine democratic governance can evolve through the inclusion of artisanal fisher local ecological knowledge. Artisanal fishing communities elicit how contamination from industrial aquaculture is causing natural shellfish banks, fish populations and endangered cold corals to diminish. While fisheries and aquaculture governance are nominally governed by the same body, the ideological concerns of decision makers have not left space for the original users or ecological health. The right to good water quality and ecological health of artisanal fisher, original people and the broader coastal community are highlighted. Using semi structured interviews, participatory cartography and Geographic Information Systems fishers explain how the contamination footprint has expanded across benthic habitats. Diving in the contaminated areas confirmed the impacts using comparison with control sites. The article shows how new laws are need to assess nutrient loading, antibiotics and invasive species introduction. It links these impacts to literature in other countries where harmful algal blooms result from eutrophication from aquaculture contamination. It shows how the privatisation of space has left marine governance unable to take adequate enforcement. Artisanal and indigenous common properties can lead toward participation in marine planning for ecological health, whilst governmental institutions need realignment so that marine ecological planning for conservation can evolve.