Sei whale (B.borealis) killed by collision with transport ship. Grupo Skorpios Pier, Puerto Natales, Magallanes region, Chilean Patagonia. May 04, 2022.Photo: @magallanessinsalmoneras
Puerto Natales, Magallanes, May 5, 2022. (Ecoceanos News / radiodelmar.cl) – On April 29, the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service (Sernapesca) together with the staff of the Skorpios Patagonia Business Group pier, extracted the corpse of a dead stranded Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis), which was hastily transported and buried in the saturated municipal landfill of Puerto Natales, but in «a place away from household waste», without a necropsy being performed to determine the cause of death of the cetacean.
The Skorpios wharf is used by cargo and transport ships of the salmonid farming, processing and export mega-industry, being certified by Sernapesca in terms of biosafety.
During the extraction of the cetacean carcass from the coastal zone, a clean cut could be seen that had severed the left half of its caudal fin, as well as a traumatized area on its right flank. Citizen organizations and independent scientists hypothesize that the possible cause of death of the specimen was having been collided by a cargo or transport ship.
Sernapesca told the regional media www.elovejeronoticias.cl that «the cause of death of the whale would be investigated,» for which «a sample was obtained that would be taken to the laboratory (sic)» (1).
Cut in the caudal fin of the Sei whale killed by collision with transport ship. Puerto Natales, Magallanes region, Chilean Patagonia. May 04, 2022.
Due to the strong demand through social networks and the pressure from regional citizen organizations and the Kawesqar community, the Sernapesca returned to the landfill five days later (May 4) together with a team from the Río Seco Natural History Museum, to carry out morphometric records, sampling and «partial» autopsy of the cetacean.
On that occasion, the regional Sernapesca justified the hasty shipment of the marine mammal to the municipal landfill due to its advanced state of decomposition, which could cause a major health event, and because it was under the pier, which «made it impossible to carry out any type of study in the specimen”, deciding with the authorities that it should be withdrawn” (1). This version has been questioned by citizen organizations.
Trying to remove this situation from the scope of the questioned regulatory procedure, regional Sernapesca announced that it was at the disposal of indigenous peoples’ organizations to coordinate in future situations of this type, highlighting the experience of April 2021 where a local indigenous community made a prayer prior to burial of a stranded blue whale in the Chumilden sector, where they prayed for the spirit of the marine mammal. “Sernapesca avoided pointing out that this blue whale was also collided by a salmon cargo ship”, said Ecocéanos Center.
The Kawesqar communities in defense of the sea addressed an open letter to the presidential delegate, Romina Álvarez, the mayor of Puerto Natales, Antonieta Oyarzo, and Esteban Ávila, the local port captain, pointing out that “the decision that it be taken to the landfill represents an offense to the spirit of this great animal and to the memory of our territory. There was not even an investigation into the causes of his death, and clearly at this point it will be impossible to know what caused his death.» The Citizen Assembly of Última Esperanza also drew attention to this irregular operation through a public statement.
Faced with this situation, the veterinary doctor Juan Carlos Cárdenas, director of the Ecoceanos Centre, pointed out that “what happened in Puerto Natales constitutes a warning signal about the submission of the State regulatory entities to the pressure of the business community to try to hide the impacts of the business community. shipping and salmon, violating national regulations and international commitments for the protection of marine mammals.
The citizen organization pointed out that together with Chilean civil society organizations and international consumer organizations, will request an investigation to establish the cause of death of the whale specimen, establish government and corporate responsibilities, as well as possible situations of existing collusion and corruption.
«This fact is an aberration regarding the protocols and regulations that govern the stranding of cetaceans in Chile and internationally,» said the Ecoceanos director.
For its part, the Cetacean Conservation Center (CCC) stated: “We regret this new record of a whale killed by interaction with the salmon industry. We are especially concerned about the abandonment of duties by the authority, since the Law for the Protection of Cetaceans (2008) punishes whoever kills a cetacean with up to five years in prison.”
CCC added that «the attempt to hide the corpse of the specimen without opening the proper investigation in order to protect an industry that has a long history of causing mortality not only to cetaceans, but also to other marine mammals, is truly unpresentable,» as is the case with common sea lions, intentionally. We are studying taking legal action so that the law does not continue to be violated with the protection of the sectoral authorities”
The Ecoceanos Centre also indicated that the municipal permit should be made public along with the sanitary permit that allowed disposing of the whale’s carcass in the household waste dump.The citizen organization requested official information from the regional Sernapesca on the reason for not having initially carried out the necropsy of the specimen.
In addition, Ecoceanos officially consulted Sernapesca, who or what public office ordered the shipment of the corpse to the municipal landfill, and if the State supervisory body made any complaint or other legal action. There has been no response from Sernapesca
This situation is similar to the discovery of a dead humpback whale floating in the Huiro cove, Los Lagos region, South Chile, where despite having a response team, Sernapesca did not manage the established protocols to carry out the necropsy of the specimen and determine the cause of his death.
The difference in criteria between the regional Sernapesca is striking, as there are those that allow and facilitate the performance of necropsies and the collection of samples, regardless of the state of conservation of the cetacean carcass.
Sei whale buried in the saturated municipal landfill of Puerto Natales,Chilean Patagonia. May 04, 2022.
The Ecoceanos Centre and the Cetacean Conservation Center (CCC) point out that the death of the whale specimen in Puerto Natales exposes the falsity of the salmon marketing campaign aimed at North American consumers under the slogan of «Healthy food and respectful of the environment».
As a measure of pressure on the Chilean State and salmon companies, with the aim of protecting whale populations and their ecosystems in Chilean Patagonia, both marine conservation organizations call on national and international consumers boycott to avoid consuming Chilean Chemical salmon. industry, and for the US government to apply the 2017 Import Rule, where Chilean exports of Atlantic salmon, Coho salmon and Rainbow trout must demonstrate that they do not violate the standards of the US Marine Mammal Protection Act so that their productions can access said market.