National Geographic wrote about the Chilean seafood industry, excerpted below.
Images of death have been arriving from southern Chile for weeks, each one seemingly more apocalyptic than the last. First there were thousands of dead salmon in aquaculture cages. Then there were rafts of dead sardines floating along the coast. Next, beached clams covered miles of shoreline. Then there were die-offs of jellyfish, birds, and even mammals.
So much death has sown panic among the public. Worried that their livelihoods are at risk, fishermen have taken to the streets, blocking roads and sowing unrest.
“People don’t dare to eat our fish because they’re afraid it is contaminated, so we are all affected on the island,” says Marcos Salas, president of the Fishermen’s Union of Quellón, one of the main towns on the Chilean island of Chiloé….
Globally, microalgae blooms have been more prevalent this year, with scientists pointing to warmer waters from El Niño as a likely culprit. In fact, this year’s cycle has been so powerful that some have dubbed it Niño Godzilla….
From February to March this year, one of these blooms killed 25 million salmon in 45 farming centers in Chile. What happened next would prove to be controversial.
About thirty percent of the dead fish were taken to landfills. But the rest were thrown into the sea, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) from Chiloé island. That operation was authorized by the Chilean Navy and the fisheries managers.
A few weeks later, a wave of more dead sealife washed up on Chiloé. While the government has blamed El Niño, many on the island suspect the dumping of the dead salmon might have had something to do with it. It’s one more example of the lax regulations of the country’s aquaculture industry, they say, which has exploded since the 1970s, making Chile the world’s second largest exporter of salmon.
Environmentalists have complained for years that Chile’s aquaculture industry has polluted the water through feces and unfinished food, which may build up on the seafloor.