Environmental Crisis Makes Protesters of Chilean Fisherman on Chiloé Island

Chiloé. Foto del usuario Flickr Mauro Díaz. Usada bajo licencia CC 2.0

Chiloé. Photo from Flick user Mauro Díaz. Used under a CC 2.0 license

The marine phenomenon known as a red tide, an excessive proliferation of algae that causes an elevated concentration of toxins, has been affecting the work of fishermen on the southern Chilean island of Chiloé for some months now.

Many attribute the recent phenomenon to the overly present salmon industry, which was affected by an algal bloom that killed more than 24 million salmon, thousands of tonnes of which ended up in the sea. The director of Sernapesca (the National Fish and Aquaculture Service), José Miguel Burgos, said “most of the death toll was used to produce fish flour, while a small percentage was sent to landfill. And the third alternative, which is permitted under international law in emergency situations, and given the lack of other possibilities, are these two thousand tonnes that were disposed of in a marine trench more than three thousand metres deep, more than 130 kilometres from the coast.”

Meanwhile, the environment minister simply attributed the phenomenon to climate change.

Internet users started sound the alarm on social media after thousands of dead clams washed up on the coast of Cucao, Chiloé, on the night of April 25, 2016.

5 kilómetros de machas muertas. Emergencia ecológica, social y alimentaria en Chile. Pantallazo de la actualización pública en Facebook de Carlos Reyes Medel.

Five kilometres of dead clams. Environmental, social and food emergency in Chile. Screenshot of a public Facebook post by Carlos Reyes Medel.

Local fishermen have been protesting since the May 3, 2016, accusing the government of failing to alleviate the economic losses they have suffered, arguing that the 100,000 Chilean pesos (approximately 150 USD) offered to each family by the regional mayor is not enough.

$100,000 payment for the fishermen of Chiloé? For the red tide! Damn that's not enough! Strength to them all!

CHILOE IN THE EARLY HOURS OF THE MORNING. This is what the island's streets looked like this morning.

It's not the “red tide” that is killing Chiloé—it's the “neoliberal tide” of salmon companies, mining companies, forestry companies, wind companies… #StayStrongChiloé

Protesters have resorted to a road blockade, barricades, and burning tires. The fishermen are asking that the government and the salmon companies take responsibility for paying compensation.

Protests in Chiloé against the “Red Tide.” Community blames salmon companies and demands real assistance.

Protests continue for measures against the Red Tide.

Our fishermen putting up a fight in Chiloé Island.

Some Twitter users pointed out that national media outlets have not informed the country about these issues.

@SoledadOnetto why don't you show this in the news why have you abandoned Chiloe

Since the mainstream and government media doesn't cover it
The people must disseminate the information
Stay strong Chiloé and X Region

A documentary titled “Against the Current” offers us more context about salmon farming and the social, environmental and economic problems it has caused in Chiloé, feauting testimonials that reconstruct the more than 30 years it has been operating in Chile.

Es un proceso parecido a un mall que construyeron ahora en Castro. Nadie se dio cuenta. No nos dimos cuenta hasta que vimos el mar sembrado.

It is a process similar to a mall that was built recently in Castro. Nobody realised. We didn't realise until we saw the sea was covered.


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.