Environmental NGO FIMA reported thousands of dead fish in Los Lagos and Aysén regions. The organization blamed the salmon farming industry, which pollutes ecosystems. Over 4,000t of salmon have died in 10 days.
The mass death of fish in Los Lagos and Aysén regions resulted from salmon farming, the projects director of environmental NGO FIMA, Gabriela Burdiles, told CNN Chile.
Norway’s Mowi owns around 50 percent of salmon farms in Chile, accounting for around 26 percent of its profits. Chile’s lack of environmental and labor restrictions makes this business even more profitable, while the environment and its inhabitants suffer lasting consequences.
Microalgae recently suffocated over 4,000t of salmon in Los Lagos and Aysén regions. In response, the salmon farming industry claimed “it’s all part of a natural process,” according to Burdiles. She added that a scientific consensus exists on the devastation salmon farming is causing “especially in these ecosystems that are fjords, very fragile, where algae grow.”
In its 2017 report, Mowi – also known as Marine Harvest – said fish escaped 15 times compared to 11 incidents in 2016. However, 900,000 fish escaped in July 2018. But salmon is an introduced species, and the large amounts of antibiotics they are given in the farms threaten other species, including humans.
Patagonia sin salmoneras: @ggabrielabp, Directora de Proyectos de @FIMA_Chile habló junto a @CNNChile sobre la contaminación y muerte de miles de peces en las regiones de Los Lagos y Aysén a raíz de las salmoneras ubicadas ahí ➡️ https://t.co/C7BtHwDkiJ #PatagoniaSinSalmoneras
— ONG FIMA (@FIMA_Chile) April 8, 2021
It’s not All Climate Change
Burdiles attributed the flourishing of algae to several factors, including temperature changes, but highlighted that “the most significant factor is that many salmon farms operate in the area.” Salmon produce a lot of organic residue that fosters algae growth, which sucks out oxygen, killing the fish and creating hazards for humans. Additionally, Burdiles said salmon is preying on the rest of the aquatic fauna.
“We’re calling for a long-term analysis to hold this industry accountable, and stop using patchwork solutions, because a risk that we are seeing today is that, for instance, fish are being moved to other farms. We have to analyze if our waters, our ecosystems can support this industry,” Burdiles said.
Lack of Legal Control
Chile’s weak environmental regulations allow the fish farming industry to operate without much restraint. Studies on fish farming are not required while production cycles are not regulated. According to sea advocacy group Oceana, Chilean salmon is given 500 times more antibiotics than salmon produced in Norway. The World Health Organization warned that by 2050, the major cause for death among humans will be bacterial resistance.
Francisco is finishing his degree in Journalism at Universidad Finis Terrae in Santiago.