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Chile Is Battling an Environmental Crisis Called ‘The Red Tide’

Mejillones, Chile. Foto del usuario de Flickr Marcos Escalier. Usada bajo licencia CC 2.0

Mejillones, Chile. Photo by Flickr user Marcos Escalier. Used under CC 2.0 licence.

Since early May this year, a new environmental disaster has plagued the coasts of Chile. The phenomenon known as the “red tide,” seen previously on the southern island of Chiloé, has claimed the lives of more than 24 million salmon and hundreds of other marine species. Now, it has reached the bay of Mejillones, in the north of the country, where more than three tons of dead anchovies have piled up along the coast.

Three tons of anchovies found stranded on the Mejillones bay

In addition to the anchovies, other marine species like the sea lion have also washed up on the shore.

15 SEA LIONS found DEAD at Playa Grande

Although the death toll has been attributed to the El Niño phenomenon, biologists from the University of Antofagasta have stated that “this kind of mass beaching of fish points to a virus or bacteria scattered throughout the shoal, intoxication due to toxic, microalgae blooms, or drastic changes in oceanographic conditions.”

However, just as in Chiloé where fishermen blame the salmon farming industry for the environmental disaster, in Mejillones there are those who attribute the marine deaths to Corpesca, a fishing company that operates in the area.

They blame Corpesca for dumping untreated waste and causing the large number of deaths among fish

Some fishermen carried out underwater filming at various points along the bay, where they are concerned that there is “a large mass of dead or dying fish at depths that vary between 5 and 20 meters” and also a “large accumulation of sediment associated with industrial activity” (fishing). Facebook user Juan Antonio Menares Henríquez shared a video that shows what he found in the ocean: dead fish everywhere. On YouTube, Diego Olmos uploaded a video showing dead and dying fish visible on the shore.

Está la cagada en este planeta.

This planet is in really bad shape.

The scenes have provoked outrage from many on Twitter:

This Mejillones thing is a DISASTER. What can come out of there, if there's only death and contamination? And the authorities aren't doing anything!!!

No more contamination of our sea.. Mutant Chernobyl Style

On May 19, the mayor of Mejillones and various representatives of artisanal fishermen submitted a complaint to the Environmental Crime Brigade, demanding an investigation into the causes of the high death rates among marine species.

Mejillones Mayor and fishermen lodge a complaint with the Investigative Police (PDI) about the contamination.

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