Sea lions in Chile: Dying for the sake of salmon sandwiches?

A sealion with a target on it´s chestThe sea lions became a target for the fish indutry
42,907 supporters

The sea lions living off the Chilean coast have a thick fur that protects them from the cold of the Humboldt Current. But in this case, their fur won’t save the protected marine mammals. The government and the fishing industry want the animals killed, because they allegedly empty the fishermen’s fishing grounds. However, the sea lions cannot be blamed for putting an increasing number of fishermen out of work. The industry has put itself into this social and ecological crisis – following the years of overexploitation, overfishing and the collapsing of the samon farming industry. Environmental organisations in Chile ask for our support in helping the sea lions.

News and updates Call to action


Read letter

The Chilean government wants to reduce the number of South American sea lions living off the coast of the country. The animals also known as southern sea lions or Patagonian sea lions (Otaria flavescens) feed on fish, mussels and crabs. And that is why they are blamed for the severe crisis the Chilean fishing industry currently faces. The seals are to be caught in nets or shot. Their meat is going to be processed into animal meal and dog food, the genitals of the male sea lions will be exported to Asia to serve as an aphrodisiac. Seals caught alive are supposed to be sold to zoos, circuses and the entertainment industry.

Behind this brutal and completely futile slaughter is the fishing industry. The Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile is empty, the fish stocks have collapsed. Even the shoals of anchovy, a basic food of many food fish, get caught in the trawl nets of the fish meal factories. In crushed form, they serve as cheap concentrated feed for millions of farmed salmon. What is more, enormous amounts of salmon die from ISA (Infectious Salmon Anemia), a viral disease imported from Europe. Following this, many businesses have to close down. Ten thousands of fishermen and workers have lost their sources of income by now.

In order to be able to kill the seals that are on the endangered species list in Chile, the government camouflages this act of madness as a “management plan for sea lions”. However, this plan lacks scientific justification, and the sea lions do not cause a nuisance either. Guido Girardi, president of the Chilean Senate, is outspoken on behalf of this: “The true sea lions posing a threat to our coastal fishing wear collars and ties.”

Read more

The Chilean environmental activists ask for our assistance. They have already collected more than 10.000 signatures and handed them over to the government. The protests continue. Please show your support.

Visit the campaign website for the sea lions for further information:

Please do not buy farmed salmon. The machinations of the Chilean fishing and salmon industry as well as the Norwegian world market leader Marine Harvest are exposed in a highly recommendable 45-minute film: Salmonopoly


Background information

For centuries, sea lions have fallen victim to the irresponsible exploitation of the seas. The leather industry and the fish oil companies have been slaughtering these animals for many years. Originally, several millions of seals have been living on the South American coast – by now, there are only about 260.000 of them. The efforts made to have this species protected are now on the verge of being unhinged. But as a matter of fact, it is the fishing industry that destroys the sea lions’ food sources and their habitats – not the other way around. Also, pups frequently get caught in the salmon farm nets and suffocate. Those animals that manage to free themselves often die in agony from parts of the fishing nets.

Meanwhile, the salmon farming industry leaves the already devastated areas in northern Chile behind and moves to the south of the country. About 1.600 new licences for salmon farming are to be released in the region of Magallanes alone. Last year, researchers of the Max Planck Society investigated the appalling conditions in salmon farming areas under water: In fact, there is no marine life anywhere near the floating salmon farms. The ecosystem is left biologically dead, and there are numerous reasons for this: excess food and tons of salmon faeces floating around, the use of antibiotics and pesticides as well as the companies’ waste. Mussel beds and other marine organisms die. And evidently, even the salmon affected by the ISA virus are not disposed of on land: They are simply put into plastic bags and thrown into the bays, as is evidenced by the researchers’ underwater footage.

By awarding salmon farms with pseudo labels such as the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), the industry tries to deceive the customers. The industrial breeding of marine animals is by no means an environmentally friendly alternative. Behind these labels is the environmental foundation WWF which is funded by the salmon farming industry. In the U.S., the breeding of genetically modified salmon has already been approved. The animals from the genetic engineering laboratories are supposed to be twice as big and to grow twice as fast as natural salmon. If the modified genes spread in nature, the problems are likely to multiply.


To the government of the Republic of Chile
Mr. Sebastián Piñera Echenique, President of Chile
Palacio de La Moneda, Chile

Carbon copy: Chilean Embassy in Berlin
Mohrenstrasse 42, 10117 Berlin, Germany
Phone: +49 (030) 72 620 35; Fax: +49 (030) 726 203 603

Dear President Piñera,

I was dismayed to learn that the Chilean government plans to have the South American sea lions killed.

Minister of Economy Pablo Longueira and Undersecretary of Fisheries Pablo Galilea are working on a so-called “management plan concerning the population of sea lions (Otaria flavescens) on the Chilean coast”. This plan involves the disposal of these marine mammals in order to abate the serious crisis that the fishing industry is currently facing and that also affects more than 60.000 small-scale fishermen and their families.

But this ecological, economic and social crisis has been brought about by people. It has not been caused by the alleged sea lion surplus that the Ministry of Economy, the fishing industry and several pressure groups claim to have detected – this claim is wrong and lacks scientific justification. By making false accusations and finding pseudo solutions, the persons resonsible try to distract everybody from the true cause of the problem.

The current crisis has been triggered solely by the overfishing of the seas by fishing fleets, by the destruction and pollution of marine ecosytems and by the salmon farming industry. Over the past three decades, politics have made matters worse by irresponsibly releasing fishing licences, by failing to implement inspections and by poorly enforcing laws – and thus, they have helped to bring about the collapse of fish stocks off the Chilean coast.

The sea lions are an important part of the ecosystem. They are necessary for maintaining the balance in nature. So please speak up for the protection of the sea lions and their habitats:

- Cancel the so-called “management plan concerning the population of sea lions” without delay – including the hunting quotas, fishing licences and the approval for hunting involved.

- Withdraw all hunting permits already issued for the export of sea lions to zoos, circuses and the entertainment industry.

- Publish all the studies dealing with sea lions and the way they die.

- Implement a fisheries policy that protects the fish stocks and their habitats while offering long-term income opportunities for the people. New licences for salmon farms must not be granted. Salmon farming destroys the ecosystems.

Around the world, Chile is popularly known for its unique natural treasures. Ecotourism plays an increasingly important part in your country.


News and updates