Quantcast

23 Million Salmon Dead Due to Toxic Algal Bloom in Chile

Food

Chile's salmon industry is once again in a tailspin as the ongoing and toxic algal bloom in the country's coastal waters has led to the death of nearly 23 million fish—or 15 percent of Chile's salmon production—putting the total economic blow from lost production around $800 million, Reuters reported.

A toxic algae bloom has killed millions of Chile's salmon. There are so many dead fish it could easily fill 14 olympic-size swimming pools. Photo credit: Flickr

“This summer’s climatic conditions have led to massive algae blooms, first in the north of Aysén and Central Chiloe and now in the Puerto Montt area, causing mortality through low oxygen and damage in the (fish) gills,” Chile's director of National Fisheries and Aquaculture, German Iglesias, told MercoPress.

The worrisome situation will likely lead to job cuts in the sector, industry group SalmonChile told Reuters.

Jose Miguel Burgos, the head of the government's Sernapesca fisheries body, told Reuters that the amount of dead fish in Chile could fill 14 Olympic-size swimming pools.

The 100,000 tonnes in lost production—including Atlantic salmon, Coho and trout—is equivalent to some $800 million in exports, Burgos added. Chile exported $4.5 billion of farmed salmon, on 800,000 tonnes of shipments last year.

Algal blooms are becoming an increasingly frequent phenomenon in fresh and saltwater bodies around the world that can contaminate or kill aquatic life and make people sick. Warming waters from climate change, inorganic fertilizers, and manure runoff from industrial agriculture and wastewater treatment plants have been pegged as conditions that can cause algal blooms.

Scientists are trying to pinpoint the exact reason why algae blooms have led to massive fish kills, according to Undark:

There seem to be a few possibilities. First, the rapid proliferation of the photosynthetic plankton can starve the water of oxygen, effectively suffocating the fish. It’s also possible that the massive algal colony is producing neurotoxins like brevetoxin, which can be deadly to fish. Finally, the fish might well be suffocating not solely from oxygen depletion in the surrounding water, but also due to an associated accumulation of mucus on their gills.

Chile, the world's second biggest salmon exporter behind Norway, already suffered a major blow when news broke last summer of Chilean salmon fisheries using record levels of antibiotics to treat the outbreak of Piscirickettsiosis bacteria, which causes lesions, hemorrhaging, and swollen kidneys and spleens, and ultimately death in infected fish. Chilean farmers used a staggering 1.2 million pounds of antibiotics on close to 1 million tons of fish.

Concerns about drug-resistant superbugs, however, have led many American consumers to seek out antibiotic-free products. Chile's rampant use of antibiotics on salmon caused retail giant Costco to switch most of its contracts to Norway. Norway’s use of antibiotics in aquaculture is at the lowest level since the late 1970s, according to a recent report from the Norwegian Veterinary Institute.

The combined catastrophes have forced Chile’s 2015 salmon production to decline by 16 percent, Undark pointed out, with Chile’s securities and insurance regulators poised to lose millions to cover losses associated with toxic algae.

“This event will probably be the largest loss to ever hit the aquaculture insurance market,” Daniel Fairweather, director of aquaculture and fisheries at insurance broker and risk consultancy Willis Towers Watson, told the publication. He estimated that insurers will probably pay out $175 million to salmon farmers who have purchased biomass insurance coverage.

Toxic microcystin bacteria float, along with this dead fish, on the surface of freshwater lakes. Photo credit: Oregon State University

To get rid of the dead fish, the ones fit for consumption will be converted into fishmeal Reuters noted, while the remaining will be dumped 60 miles offshore to avoid risks to human health, IntraFish noted.

Seafood business news source Undercurrent reported that a shortage of fresh salmon to the U.S. will be noticed by May with contract prices for Atlantic salmon expected to increase by then. The current spot, or market price, is already up across the board.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

The Shocking Consequences of the World’s Meat Addiction

SeaWorld’s Famous Whale and ‘Blackfish’ Star Is Dying

Young Humpback Whale Found Dead, Exposes Devastating Impacts of Ocean Trash

Are You Drinking Teflon Contaminated Water?

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An American flag waves in the wind at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, California on May 17 where a trial against Monsanto took place. Alva and Alberta Pilliod, were awarded more than $2 billion in damages in their lawsuit against Monsanto, though the judge in the case lowered the damage award to $87 million. JOSH EDELSON / AFP / Getty Images

By Carey Gillam

For the last five years, Chris Stevick has helped his wife Elaine in her battle against a vicious type of cancer that the couple believes was caused by Elaine's repeated use of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide around a California property the couple owned. Now the roles are reversed as Elaine must help Chris face his own cancer.

Read More Show Less
Butterfly habitats have fallen 77 percent in the last 50 years. Pixabay / Pexels

The last 50 years have been brutal for wildlife. Animals have lost their habitats and seen their numbers plummet. Now a new report from a British conservation group warns that habitat destruction and increased pesticide use has on a trajectory for an "insect apocalypse," which will have dire consequences for humans and all life on Earth, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Six of the nineteen wind turbines which were installed on Frodsham Marsh, near the coal-powered Fiddler's Ferry power station, in Helsby, England on Feb. 7, 2017.

Sales of electric cars are surging and the world is generating more and more power from renewable sources, but it is not enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to stop the global climate crisis, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Read More Show Less
"Globally, we're starting to see examples of retailers moving away from plastics and throwaway packaging, but not at the urgency and scale needed to address this crisis." Greenpeace

By Jake Johnson

A Greenpeace report released Tuesday uses a hypothetical "Smart Supermarket" that has done away with environmentally damaging single-use plastics to outline a possible future in which the world's oceans and communities are free of bags, bottles, packaging and other harmful plastic pollutants.

Read More Show Less
Children are forced to wear masks due to the toxic smoke from peat land fires in Indonesia. Aulia Erlangga / CIFOR

By Irene Banos Ruiz

Pediatricians in New Delhi, India, say children's lungs are no longer pink, but black.

Our warming planet is already impacting the health of the world's children and will shape the future of an entire generation if we fail to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (35.6°F), the 2019 Lancet Countdown Report on health and climate change shows.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Private homes surround a 20 inch gas liquids pipeline which is part of the Mariner East II project on Oct. 5, 2017 in Marchwood, Penn. Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

The FBI is looking into how the state of Pennsylvania granted permits for a controversial natural gas pipeline as part of a corruption investigation, the AP reports.

Read More Show Less
Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles. Carolina Wild Ones / Facebook

Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
The Dakota Access pipeline being built in Iowa. Carl Wycoff / CC BY 2.0

The fight between the Standing Rock Sioux and the owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline is back on, as the tribe opposes a pipeline expansion that it argues would increase the risk of an oil spill.

Read More Show Less