Fishery talks with Chile begin in Juneau

Posted: Thursday, July 29, 2004

JUNEAU (AP) Chilean fishery officials are in Juneau this week for U.S. trade talks on several issues, including salmon farming.

Chile is a major player in that industry, exporting more than 124 tons to the United States in 2003. The South American product made up about 5 percent of total U.S. seafood imports.

The industry has raised pollution concerns. To address those issues, ''we'll talk about ecosystem-friendly ways to manage aquaculture,'' said Jim Balsinger, Alaska regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Though NMFS and its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, promote aquaculture development in offshore waters, Balsinger said there is ''no near-term likelihood'' of it happening in Alaska.

''But we'd be foolish not to ask the questions,'' he said, adding that worldwide demand for seafood products won't be met solely by fishing the oceans.

Whether fish farms develop offshore of Alaska or elsewhere in the United States, ''it's going to impact coastal economies, the environment and our Alaskan fisheries,'' said Paula Terrell, of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.

Felipe Sandoval, Chile's fisheries undersecretary, said he hopes to have productive conversations with U.S. regulators on the aquaculture issue.

Other priority topics include better management of fisheries and enforcement to protect endangered species.

''We have a chance to share our experiences and also solve problems,'' Sandoval said.

This is the seventh time that NOAA and Chilean fisheries officials have met for trade talks, but it is the first time in Alaska.

Today, members of the U.S. and Chilean delegations plan to sign a new memorandum of understanding, which basically serves as an agreement that the nations will exchange information related to fishery activities, including regulations and management practices.

The new memorandum will contain only minor revisions to the current memorandum, signed in 1995, according to NOAA officials.

The 1995 agreement won't expire until June 2005, but a new one needs to be signed now because the two delegations will not meet again until 2006.

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