Publicado el 11 December, 2023 / News

New INCAR Policy Brief analyzes the impact of the salmon industry on poverty and income distribution in rural coastal areas.

While it is well-documented that the establishment of the salmon industry in the Lake District had a significant impact on the economic development and overall modernization of the region, these results are usually conditioned by the impact on urban areas. Less known is the effect of this industry on the population living in rural areas, especially in coastal zones.  

In order to deepen the understanding of the establishment of capital-intensive industries, based on natural resources in remote locations, on the distributive impacts and poverty associated, INCAR researchers published the Policy Brief 13, “Assessment of the Socioeconomic Impact of the Salmon Industry: Poverty and Income Distribution in Rural Coastal Areas.” In this brief, authors Adam Ceballos, Roberto Cárdenas, and Dr. Jorge Dresdner, Principal Investigator of the RP5 line “Socioeconomic Sustainability” of the center, analyzed the impact that the development of salmon farming industries has had on the well-being of people, in terms of employment and income, in the territories where these industries have been established.  

According to the analysis conducted by the authors, the establishment of fish farming centers near rural coastal communities had a positive impact on poverty reduction and an inhibitory effect on the increase of inequality in these areas during the analyzed period. These qualitative results are consistent across different estimations. The magnitude of the effect varies among different specifications. 

During the 1992-2002 period, rural poverty in the Lake District decreased. The reduction in poverty in rural areas where the salmon industry was established, according to the model used, is six percentage points higher on average than the observed in those rural areas where salmon farming centers were not installed. “Quantitatively, this is a significant impact. However, the effect disappears for localities that are (on average) more than 15 km away from a farming center. This could be because workers residing in more distant places face higher transportation costs from their homes to reach the centers, given the fragmented geography of the region, suggesting that the higher income offered by the salmon farms does not compensate for the higher travel costs faced by workers living at greater distances,” explain the researchers in the document.  

Another result of the study is that inequality in income distribution decreased in the localities with salmon farming centers compared to those without these centers. In other words, if the salmon farming centers had not been installed, inequality would have increased more in those localities. The quantitative effect corresponds to reducing the increase in inequality in rural areas during the period by almost half. Additionally, the results indicate that the lower inequality is due to an increase in the proportion of families with incomes in the middle part of the income distribution. 

The results of these investigations reveal that the development of Chile’s salmon industry, a highly capital-intensive industry, had beneficial consequences on the income levels of the coastal rural population directly linked to this industry. Moreover, it also contributed to reducing income inequality within these communities. “These results provide evidence that capital-intensive farming systems, such as salmon farming in Chile, can also improve the living conditions of the involved populations,” explain the authors. This particular outcome was not previously documented in the international literature on the impact of aquaculture on income distribution.  

The authors provide several key recommendations for decision-makers. These include enhancing the understanding of the social impact of local productive activities, establishing a robust and impartial monitoring system to assess the evolving living conditions in these sectors, and implementing mitigation measures to address adverse effects. Additionally, the authors suggest that the salmon industry should have fostered stronger relationships with communities and incorporated social dimensions into their impact assessment framework. 

Through the “Recommendations from Science for Public Policies” or “Policy Briefs,” INCAR aims to inform society and promote changes and innovation in public policies, based on the best science, to address strategic issues in the sector under the framework of the ecosystem approach to aquaculture. 


Download the Policy Brief 13 (Spanish only) 

Link to the study “Impact assessment of salmon farming on income distribution in remote coastal areas: The Chilean case”  

 Link to the study “Does the location of salmon farms contribute to the reduction of poverty in remote coastal areas? An impact assessment using a Chilean case study”