The body of a penguin killed by illegal blast fishing lays on a beach in Punta de Choros, northern Chile, 12 May 2013. The bodies of over 600 sea lions, cormorants, and penguins littered a seven mile stretch of beach. Photo: Santiago Times

By Jordan Greene
16 May 2013

(Santiago Times) – Chilean Navy discovers more than 600 dead animals in Punta de Choros, a small fishing  town north of La Serena.

The bodies of sea lions, cormorants and penguins littered a seven mile stretch of beach in Punta de Choros, northern Chile on Sunday. The crime scene is in close proximity to the Humboldt Penguin Nature Reserve.

Two days prior the Movement in Defense of the Environment (MODEMA) reported a band of ten fishing boats off the coastline of Punta de Choros. MODEMA and other environmental groups accused the boats of blast fishing — using explosives to catch mass quantities of fish.

Sernapesca, Chile’s National Fishing Service, investigated the scene and determined that all the animals were killed by the same incident. Autopsies report animals with fractured skulls, missing rib cages, and multiple abrasions.

The bodies of sea lions, cormorants, and penguins were discovered on 12 May 2013 littering a seven mile stretch of beach in Punta de Choros, northern Chile. Police are investigating suspicions that the deaths were caused by local fishermen using explosives to increase catches (blast fishing). Photo: Sernapesca

Local authorities promptly called in the Investigative Police’s (PDI) Environmental Crime Brigade for further investigation. Microbiological and chemical analysis tests are currently being run to determine if blast fishing is the cause of death.

In Chile, blast fishing is illegal. Companies caught fishing in this manner face prison time and fines. The monetary amount depends on the damage to the ecosystem. However, causing the death of penguins during commercial activities is a jailable offense. Officials from Sernapesca told The Santiago Times that the combined offenses amount to a “serious crime.”

“This situation is quite complicated because of the crime scene’s location near the penguin reserve,” Cristián Felmer, an environmental expert, stated to the press. "This is one of the most important environmental incidents we’ve had in recent memory.”

This isn’t the first environmental calamity at Punta de Choros. In April of last year, 350 Guayano cormorants washed up on the beach. The next month, Sernapesca reported the deaths of more than 80 sea lions. [more]

Penguins and sea lions found dead on Chilean shore via Wit’s End



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