SANTIAGO – Greenpeace’s flagship vessel, the Rainbow Warrior, will travel along Chile’s coast over the next two weeks as part of a campaign targeting salmon farms in the Patagonia region.
The environmental watchdog is specifically calling for the cancellation of 10 salmon farming projects off the coast of the far-southern region of Magallanes.
“We’re trying to save the seas at the end of the world, which are here in the Chilean Patagonia (and) threatened by the salmon industry. We can’t allow a repeat of what happened in Chiloe,” Greenpeace Chile’s oceans coordinator, Estefania Gonzalez, told EFE.
She was referring to a red tide last year that affected Chiloe, an island off Chile’s coast, and which coincided with the dumping by salmon producers of 5,000 tons of dead fish into the sea.
Greenpeace says the dumping of the fish exacerbated the red tide – a harmful algal bloom that turns sea water red and produces toxic chemicals that can affect both marine organisms and humans – that killed 37,000 tons of fish and other marine species.
A scientific commission that investigated the phenomenon, however, found no causal relationship between the dumping of the dead salmon – which had been killed by a separate harmful algal bloom – and the red tide that affected Chiloe.
They instead pointed to the El Niño weather phenomenon as the culprit.
Gonzalez, for her part, said the Chilean government was contributing to the problem by failing to protect the oceans and species such as whales and the Chilean dolphin, which may be affected if salmon farming operations are expanded into their habitats.
“The law is absolutely deficient, and the Chiloe crisis showed that. Authorities are working hand-in-hand with the salmon industry,” the Greenpeace coordinator said.
The Rainbow Warrior will set sail from the far-northern city of Arica and make port calls at several points along Chile’s coast, including La Serena, Coquimbo and Valparaiso, where all visitors will be welcome on board the vessel to learn about Greenpeace’s work, Gonzalez said.