The red tide outbreak affecting Chile’s southern coast continues to persist on historically and environmentally catastrophic levels as dead marine life pile up on the beach and fishermen protest inadequate assistance from the government.
The naturally occurring red tide — and algae bloom that poisons sea life and turns the water red — began several weeks ago, resulting in government compensation for fishermen who were waiting out the problem.
But this week, the National Council for the Defense of Fishing Heritage announced another 300 tons of dead sardines were found less than a mile from where twenty thousand tons had previously been found, suggesting that the red tide isn’t going to shrink anytime soon.
“Highly toxic samples have been taken in the region of Los Ríos, which obliges us … to close areas of the region to resource extraction,” a government official said.
Deputy Minister of Fishing and Aquaculture told the local radio station Cooperativa that the algae bloom is going to grow — spreading south from the Bío Bío region now into the region of Los Lagos.
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Fishermen in effected regions continue to block access to the island of Chiloé in response to what they deem inadequate support from the government. Originally, fishing families were offered CLP $100,000 (US $147), which was increased to CLP $300,000 (US $440) after the first round of protests.
Officials attributed the red tide in part to El Niño, a naturally occurring rise in ocean temperatures that create conditions conducive to algae blooms. But this one, experts said, is far larger and more detrimental than those in years past — and it may be the result of industry.
“The situation that affects our waters does not only have a climatic explanation,” an official told La Tercera, “but also is the consequence of years of fishing, aquaculture and pillaging the ocean.”
Indeed, marine life beyond fish are feeling the effects of the algae bloom. Birds in the area have reportedly begun searching for new areas to feed, while whales, sea lions and other, larger animals have been beached in large numbers.
The fishing industry makes up about .05% of Chile’s gross domestic product, according to The Gaurdian.