The rapid development of salmon aquaculture worldwide and the growing criticism of the activity in recent decades have raised doubts about the capacity of the sector to learn from its own crises. In this article, we assess the discursive, behavioral and outcome performance dimensions of the industry to identify actual learning and lessons to be learned. We focus on the case of Chiloé Island, Chile, a global center of salmon production since 1990 that has gone through two severe crises in the last 15 years (2007–2009 ISAV crisis and 2016 red tide crisis). On the basis of a multi-method approach combining qualitative analysis of interviews and statistical data analysis, we observe that the industry has discursively learned the relevance of both self-regulation and the well-being of communities. However, at the behavioral and outcome performance levels, the data show a highly heterogeneous conduct that questions the ability of the sector as a whole to learn from crises. We conclude that detrimental effects for ecosystems and society will increase if learning remains at the level of discourses. Without significant changes in operational practices and market performance there are no real perspectives for the sustainability of the industry. This intensifies when considering the uneven responses to governance mechanisms. The sector needs to adapt its factual performance to sustainable goals and reflexively monitor this process. The first step for achieving this is to produce reliable data to make evidence-based decisions that align the operational dynamics of the entire sector with a more sustainable trajectory in the near future, as well as advancing towards hybrid and more reflexive governance arrangements.
- Outcome performance
- Salmon industry