Quantcast

Thousands of Dead Sardines Found Floating in Chile's Queule River

Animals

By Orietta Estrada

A massive fish kill in the Queule River Estuary in Chile last week has left fishermen overworked, residents in fear and thousands of tons of dead sardines floating along local shorelines. According to a statement on the website Chile's National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service (SERNAPESCA), the entire area has been declared a human health hazard and the dead sardines have been banned for consumption.

Thousands of dead sardines have been found floating in Chile's Queule River. Photo credit: SERNAPESCA

Seven major areas in the estuary have been affected by the sardine die-offs with Playa de Los Piños being hit the hardest. The news comes at a bad time for a region already struggling with stocking its national fisheries. Sardines, along with anchovy, were recently closed to fishing in the country due to low catch numbers. SERNAPESCA estimates that there were several hundred tons of dead fish in the water.

Fisherman Hernan Machua, told El País that 1,000 tons of dead sardines have been scooped out of the water so far and several thousand tons remain. He also added that more help from the government in the clean up efforts was desperately needed.

Last week, SERNAPESCA tweeted images of the massive sardine die-offs. The images were captured during an aerial evaluation of the extent of the fish kill. The evaluation team included the mayor of Queule:

Over the weekend SERNAPESCA tweeted this image of fishermen beginning the removal of the dead fish:

Images publicly posted to Facebook from a Queule resident presented an alternative perspective to the clean up efforts:

At this time it is unclear why the fish kill happened, nor is it clear where it originated. It is also unknown if other fish species have been affected. What is clear is that fluctuations in sardine populations are common and occur for several reasons. One reason is hypoxia. Hypoxia is the result of increased primary production in waterways which leads to a decrease in the availability of oxygen, subsequently suffocating marine organisms. Unfortunately, this is not Chile's first time dealing with massive fish kills related to hypoxia.

The country's salmon industry was left reeling last month after harmful algal blooms (HABs) caused massive die-offs. Eutrophication, natural or synthetic fertilization of algae, causes HABs which result in hypoxia. The salmon die-offs slashed 15 percent of Chile's total salmon production totaling around $800 million in economic losses.

Although sardines are not listed as a threatened species, in a food web, their recent-historic population declines have far reaching implications for animals at higher trophic levels—animals like sea lions. This past March, in the U.S., the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that low stocks of sardines and anchovy were to blame for starving sea lion pups. Female sea lions were unable to receive proper nutrition due to the scarcity of their staple food source—sardines and anchovy. Therefore, undernourished females were unable to properly feed their own pups.

The struggle to maintain adequate fish stocks in the Chile was echoed this week by the U.S. when the U.S. Pacific Fishery Management Council closed sardine fishing in the Pacific Northwest. This is the second consecutive year that the council has taken this action. Both countries face tremendous obstacles rebuilding their national fisheries. Among those obstacles are overfishing, water pollution and climate change.

Residents in Queule are frustrated with authorities for the slow pace of the clean up, according to Reuters. Health concerns have also been raised as the decomposing fish continue to crowd the shoreline. Euronews reported that a similar incident occurred in the neighboring region of Los Rios last month, but that report is not yet confirmed.

Clean up efforts are ongoing and the environmental impacts are unknown.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Sardine Fishing Banned in Pacific Northwest as Stocks Hit Historic Low

Overfishing to Blame for Sardine Shortage and Starving Sea Lions

Unlocking the Potential of Sustainable Fishing

Removal of 4 Dams to Reopen 420 Miles of Historic Salmon Habitat on Klamath River

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Simon Coghlan and Kobi Leins

A remarkable combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and biology has produced the world's first "living robots."

Read More
Malaysian Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin (front 2nd L) and officials inspect a container containing plastic waste shipment on Jan. 20, 2020 before sending back to the countries of origin. AFP via Getty Images

The Southeast Asian country Malaysia has sent 150 shipping containers packed with plastic waste back to 13 wealthy countries, putting the world on notice that it will not be the world's garbage dump, as CNN reported. The countries receiving their trash back include the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada.

Read More
Sponsored
Trump leaves after delivering a speech at the Congress Centre during the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos on Jan. 21, 2020. JIM WATSON / AFP via Getty Images

U.S. President Donald Trump dismissed the concerns of environmental activists as "pessimism" in a speech to political and business leaders at the start of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Tuesday.

Read More

Warning: The video above may be upsetting to viewers.

An amusement park in China came under fire on social media this weekend for forcing a pig off a 230 foot-high bungee tower.

Read More
Participants at the tree-planting event in Ankazobe district, Madagascar, on Jan. 19. Valisoa Rasolofomboahangy / Mongabay

By Malavika Vyawahare, Valisoa Rasolofomboahangy

Madagascar has embarked on its most ambitious tree-planting drive yet, aiming to plant 60 million trees in the coming months. The island nation celebrates 60 years of independence this year, and the start of the planting campaign on Jan. 19 marked one year since the inauguration of President Andry Rajoelina, who has promised to restore Madagascar's lost forests.

Read More