Chilean Patagonia, June 06, 2021 (Ecocéanos News / CCC News) – A national and international call to initiate actions to boycott the consumption of industrial chemical salmon were carried out by the organizations Ecoceanos Centre and Cetacea Conservation Centre (CCC), with the aim of stopping the increasing mortalities of Chilean dolphins, blue whales, common sea lions and other species of marine mammals, caused by the destructive expansion of the industrial monoculture of salmonids in southern Chile.
In April 2021, a new death by entanglement of a Chilean dolphin (Cephalorhynchus eutropia) was registered in the facilities of a salmon farming center in the Aysen region, Chilean Patagonia. This illegal situation was denounced by the company Turismo Cahuelche, from Puerto Cisne.
The Chilean dolphin is one of the smallest and most unknown species of cetaceans in the world, being very susceptible to local extinction processes due to its small population and its extremely limited habitats and residences.
Its distribution includes the cold coastal waters of the Southeast Pacific between Valparaiso (33 ° S) to Navarino Island, Beagle Channel and Cape Horn (55 ° 15’S). Its presence is also recorded at the eastern entrance to the Strait of Magellan, and in a small population in the Deseado estuary, northeast of the province of Santa Cruz, Argentine Patagonia.
The rapid expansion of salmon farming centers between the Chiloe archipelago and the Aysen and Magallanes regions, seriously threatens Chilean dolphins due to the deaths of specimens due to entanglement in the nets that salmon centers use to repel common sea lions. (Otaria byronia). Furthermore, being a coastal dolphin with local populations of very restricted distribution, the disproportionate occupation of the coastline by salmon cages, and its associated chemical pollution and marine litter, has strongly impacted the availability and quality of habitats that are essential for its survival. To the aforementioned, deaths due to suffocation in the nets used by industrial and artisanal fishing fleets are added.
The growing maritime traffic, linked to the cargo transport of the salmon industry between the areas of Puerto Montt (41 ° 28´S) and the Taitao peninsula (46 ° 30´S) -one of the favorite feeding areas of cetaceans due to its krill abundance, is one of the greatest lethal threats to large cetaceans, as it overlaps with the distribution patterns of these species.
The specimens of blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), humpback whale (Megaptera novaengliae), Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis), and southern right whale (Eubalaena australis), face serious problems to feed and move through the fishing and salmon areas, due to the increasing number of operational ships. Between 2009 and 2017, the CCC has reported two blue whales and one six whale killed by boat collision and one southern right whale killed by entanglement in nets, all of these mortalities recorded only in the northern Patagonia area.
After being collided, only a few animals strand dead on the beaches showing serious injuries or fractures from the associated trauma. The total number of events is estimated to be much higher since not all the animals get to strand and when they vary the evidence of collision or entanglement is difficult to detect.
The fleet linked to the salmon industrial cluster is the largest and most densely distributed in the archipelago and inland sea of Chiloe, as well as in the northern fjords of Chilean Patagonia..
There are currently 729 salmon transport vessels, which represents 83% of the total vessels of the cargo, artisanal and industrial fishing fleets that operate in the southern-southern waters of Chile.
These fleets represent a significant threat to 40% of the cetacean species described globally that frequent the waters of southern Chile.
Unfortunately, the history of deaths of cetaceans and other marine mammals due to human interaction in Chilean Patagonia continues to increase. On April 22, 2021, the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service (Sernapesca) confirmed the death of a new specimen of blue whale that had beached in Chumelden, Chaitén commune, Los Lagos region, after being collided by a vessel .
Previously, on April 7, 2021, a female humpback whale (Megaptera novaengliae) was found floating near the San Isidro lighthouse, west coast of the Strait of Magellan. The whale died after being hit by a large vessel.
This is the seventh humpback whale found dead in the central sector of the Strait of Magellan, an area used as a sea route for Atlantic-Pacific international trade.
Humpback whale collided by vessel. Strait of Magellan, April 2020 Photo: La Tercera
In May 2020, social networks warned about the presence of a 15-meter-long Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis), found dead due to entanglement in a salmon farming center belonging to the Australis Mar company, in the Aysen region. This species is classified as endangered.This new case joins others reported in previous years, where large cetaceans have been released and had a better destination.
Sei whale meshed in salmon center “Matilde 3” of Australis Mar. Aysen, Chilean Patagonia. March, 2020. Photo: Sernapesca
One of the lesser known threats to ecosystems and marine biodiversity is underwater noise pollution, and its potential impacts on the physiology and behavior of marine mammals, fish and invertebrates.
In addition to the intense maritime traffic, there are increasing levels of sonic pollution that «inject» large amounts of noise into marine ecosystems, without the fishing, salmon or transport industry being proactive in the face of the impacts it has on the multiple forms of life that depend on sound to communicate, as is the case with marine mammals.
The negative impacts of underwater noise on cetaceans are recognized as another of the main threats to cetaceans, affecting the reproductive and feeding processes, limiting the ability of individuals to find their food sources, and find each other, which affects recovery. of these populations. In extreme cases, underwater noise can even kill animals.
The degradation of the habitat of large and small marine mammals, a consequence of the active processes of organic contamination produced by salmon feces and uneaten food, together with the chemical contamination generated by the intensive use of antimicrobials, antiparasitics, anti- fouling and carcinogenic antifungals (such as malachite green and crystal violet), generate cumulative impacts not only for mammals and seabirds, but also for human health.
There are records of pathologies in the skin of these cetaceans, which could be a consequence of stress, added to the presence of chemical pollutants, or pathogens from industrial salmon farming centers.
Common sea lions (Otaria byronia) killed in a salmon farming center, Isla Capitan Aracena, Magallanes, Chilean Patagonia. Photo: Centro Ecoceanos
The elimination of specimens of South American sea lions as a strategy of containment of the farming centers against the breaking of nets, damage to the salmon in the rafts-cages, or the generation of stress to the fish in captivity, is a situation that has been present since the beginning of the geographical expansion of salmon farming, without the authorities and companies recognizing the existence of these situations, nor have any investigations been carried out to estimate the dimension of this marine conservation problem as a consequence of a direct anthropic action of an illegal nature .
In the killing of sea lions, a series of methods have been used, such as the use of shotguns and high-caliber weapons, used in some cases by hired individuals, which in the regional jargon are called “baleros”. Death to blows, or the asphyxia of the specimens that enter the rafts-cages have also been recorded. Added to the above is the destruction of their coastal-terrestrial breeding and breeding sites.
Most of the complaints made by coastal communities and citizen organizations to the Environmental Crimes Brigade of the Chilean Investigative Police (Bridema), usually remain without responsible or sanctions for the company involved.
The Chilean State, due to citizen pressure campaigns, together with the implementation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of the United States, established on January 27, 2021, through the exempt decree of the Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism, a ten-year extractive ban to be applied in the territory and jurisdictional waters of the country (1).
To face the diversity of impacts that the current expansion of the industrial salmon monoculture in southern Chile is generating, a coalition of 64 socio-environmental organizations, indigenous communities and scientists coordinated by the group “Defendamos Chiloé”, issued in April 2021 an historical statement demanding the exit of salmon farming from the lakes, fjords and channels of southern Chile; the establishment of a moratorium on the expansion of these industrial cultivation centers; the cessation of the delivery of new concessions, as well as the brake on the expansion of the surface and biomass in the current centers of cultivation of these exotic fish destined for export.
The prestigious scientific journal Science published the request made to the Chilean government by 65 scientists, who requested to increase the protection of whales threatened by deadly collisions caused by boats, after three cetaceans were found dead in a period of only eight days during April 2021. The measures requested consisted of diverting the navigation of ships in sensitive regions, the establishment of speed limits and an alert system to warn the pilots of the ships about nearby whales (2).
For their part, scientists Juan G. Navedo and Luis Vargas-Chacoff from the Austral University of Chile, published in May 2021 the text «Salmoniculture threatens Patagonia» in the letters section of the journal Science, based on the environmental impacts caused by the harmful microalgae blooms that occurred in April 2021 in the salmonid farming areas of Comau fjord, continental Chiloe, and in the Jacaf and Puyuhuapi channels, Aysen region.
As proposals to contain these negative events for vulnerable ecosystems, both scientists pointed out that the international markets for Chilean salmon could take advantage of their economic power to convince the government of the South American country to adopt measures for the protection of this unique biodiversity hotspot, of the effects caused by salmon farming. In turn, they indicated that the United Nations should pressure the Chilean government to stop the current expansion of industrial salmon farming towards southern latitudes, especially the Magallanes region, one of the last strongholds of Patagonian nature.
Navedo and Vargas also highlighted the need to implement comprehensive annual monitoring programs, which would warn the industry when necessary, and «dismantle aquaculture operations» that violate regulations. Finally, both authors valued the current citizen process for the creation of a new Constitution for Chile, due to its potential to address a variety of issues, including environmental regulations that allow limits to the expansion of salmon farming (3), (4).
For their part, Ecoceanos and the Cetacea Conservation Center are calling on citizen organizations, social movements, indigenous peoples and consumers from the United States, Japan, Brazil, the Russian Federation, Europe and Argentina, not to buy or consume salmon from the south From Chile.
For both organizations, only the strengthening of a broad process of «de-salmonisation» of the Chilean maritime sector, together with public mobilization and pressure from the markets, will make it possible to stop the destructive expansion of the salmon industry in Chiloe, Aysen and Magallanes. , and allow the recovery of vulnerable populations of marine mammals and their ecosystems.
Recent scientific studies and international organizations such as the International Whaling Commission (IWC) have confirmed that whales play a key role for the survival of the oceans and the planet, since they have bioindicators that show the profound environmental changes underway, and are relevant species for mitigating the effects of climate change, and the functioning of marine ecosystems as they fertilize the oceans.
(2)14 May 2021.Vol 372 . Issue 6543. Letters. Sciencemag,org / news,
(3)14 May 2021.Vol 372: 695-696. Issue 6543. Letters. Sciencemag,org / News