Chile’s toxic tide threatens fishing industry

Global Business

Chile's toxic tide threatens fishing industry

As experts struggle to understand what’s behind an enormous bloom of toxic algae in Chile, those whose livelihoods depend on fishing say the authorities are failing them.

CCTV’s Owen Fairclough reports.

Chile\'s toxic tide threatens fishing industry

Chile\'s toxic tide threatens fishing industry

As experts struggle to understand what's behind an enormous bloom of toxic algae in Chile, those whose livelihoods depend on fishing say the authorities are failing them. CCTV's Owen Fairclough reports.

Tons of shellfish, salmon, sardines, and other regular catch have been contaminated by a giant tide of red algae in southern Chile. It’s been blamed on the death of hundreds of whales.

“The salmon industry , its employees and its suppliers, cannot cope with this crisis and will not survive further inactivity. We are losing more than 10 million consumers every day because of this paralysis,” Felipe Manterola, Director of Salmon in Chile said.

It’s not just the fishermen who are suffering. It’s the local markets and shipping industry.

“I work as you can see in the market and unfortunately we don’t sell anything. For days, people come but don’t buy. They are afraid of even eating fish, so we no longer know what to do,” Mireya Asencio, a local fishmonger said.

The government has declared a state of emergency in the region and offered those affected compensation.

But it’s not enough. And many protesters have been venting their anger by blockading local ports.

Experts think the natural El Nino weather patterns have warmed waters more than usual and nourished the algae.

Others think fishermen themselves are to blame, altering ecosystems with intensive salmon farming to maintain Chile’s position as the world’s second biggest producer.

For the long run, conservationists say major producers, like Chile, must find a way to balance sustainability with rapidly accelerating global demand for fish.