SANTIAGO – Protesting fishermen on the southern Chilean archipelago of Chiloe decided Friday to temporarily stop blocking access to their islands in order to let in trucks bringing food, gasoline and other products that have grown scarce during the six says since they launched their demonstrations.
Leader Jaime Gonzalez said on Bio-Bio radio that on Saturday they were allowing ferries carrying trucks to sail for the continent and were opening some roads on the Isla Grande of Chiloe, the largest in the archipelago.
Fishermen have been protesting for six days because of the ban imposed on fishing in local waters because of the red tide in the area.
The Chilean government has offered them bonuses of 750,000 pesos (some $1,126), though fishermen have rejected the offer, considering it insufficient and saying it wouldn’t be awarded to everyone affected by the environmental disaster.
The phenomenon causing the contamination is known as the red tide and is caused by excessive proliferation of microalgae with high concentrations of toxins.
Consumption of seafood contaminated by the red tide is blamed for 23 deaths in Chile since 1972.
Some 80 percent of Chiloe’s population make their living from products taken from the sea, so the authorities’ ban on fishing and harvesting seafood has had a major impact on the local economy.
The six days of protests and blockade have begun to leave its mark with a severe shortage of food, fuel and other essential products.