4 May 2016 (ABC News) – Piles of dead whales, salmon, sardines, and clams blamed on the El Niño freak weather phenomenon have been clogging Chile's pacific beaches in recent months.
Last year, scientists were shocked when more than 300 whales turned up dead on remote bays of the southern coast — it was the first in a series of grim finds.
A surge in algae in the water earlier this year choked to death an estimated 40,000 tonnes of salmon in the Los Lagos region — equal to about 12 per cent of Chile's annual production of the fish.
This month, about 8,000 tonnes of sardines were washed up at the mouth of the Queule river and thousands of dead clams piled up on the coast of Chiloe Island.
Chilean authorities blamed a "red tide" of algae and banned fishing in the affected region — putting thousands of fishermen out of work.
"We have red tides every year in southern Chile, but this time it reached further north," said Jorge Navarro, a researcher at the marine institute IDEAL.
"It affected bivalve populations (such as clams) that had never before been exposed like this [to the algae]," he said.
On the shores of Santa Maria Island off the centre off Chile's long coast, cuttlefish have been washed up dead in the thousands.
Various beaches in the centre of the country were closed as the specimens of the dreaded Portuguese Man-of-War jellyfish, normally foreign to the area, floated nearby. […]
Scientists also suspect other causes for the mass destruction of the sea creatures.
Laura Farias, an oceanographer at Chile's Concepcion University, said last year's huge toll of whales could have been caused by "natural ecological process".
"There is no ecological, oceanographic, or climatic explanation" linking the whales to the other incidents, she said.
Ms Farias suspects the growth of fish farming in Chile's southern Patagonia region is to blame for killing the salmon and clams.
"There are studies indicating that in Patagonia the greater occurrence of toxic blooms could be a consequence of aquaculture," she said. [more]