SANTIAGO – More than 36,000 tons of dead salmon have resulted from an algal bloom in the southern region of Los Lagos, threatening one of Chile’s key export industries with massive losses and job cuts.
The algal proliferation is caused by higher-than-normal temperatures in the Pacific Ocean.
Chile’s CUT labor federation said Thursday that the government should declare a health emergency in Reloncavi, one of the worst affected areas, and appoint a “competent” person to manage efforts to mitigate the loss of 10,000 jobs.
Responding to union complaints about management’s failure to anticipate the crisis, industry group SalmonChile said in a statement that the current phenomenon “is an event unseen in 26 years of historical records” and could not have been foreseen.
On Wednesday, Economy Minister Luis Felipe Cespedes told a special session of the lower house of Congress to discuss the situation that he does not expect job losses in the near term.
Blooming microalgae embed themselves in the gills of the salmon, gradually causing death by asphyxiation, an expert in fish health told EFE.
Aquaculture experts estimate some 100,000 tons of salmon could die, or the equivalent of 15 percent of Chile’s annual production, representing a potential loss of $800 million.
Chile is the world’s second-largest producer of salmon after Norway.