Posted by: Vicki Burns | March 14, 2016

Toxic Algae Bloom Hits Salmon Farms in Chile

Recently my husband and I had the privilege of travelling to South America and sailing around the most southern part of the continent from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso, through the beautiful Patagonia region. We were thrilled to see penguins, glaciers and the Chilean Fjords in areas that looked almost untouched by human existence. But sadly, even in this remote area, our human actions have contributed to a huge toxic algal bloom that has had a devastating effect on the salmon farms in the region, and likely other aquatic life.

While we were visiting Puerto Montt , which is a lovely seaside town in Chile, we noticed what appeared to be blue-green algae close to the shore in town. Subsequently we learned about the extent of the bloom and its impact on the farmed salmon. 23 million salmon have died as a result of the toxic algal bloom.


Puerto Montt, Chile – photo credit Tourismo-Cultura. Com


The practice of raising salmon in waters where they are only separated from the wild fish by netting is hazardous to the wild fish in the area because viruses and bacteria that exist in the farmed population can easily be transmitted through the mesh netting to the wild population. In this incident in Chile it is likely that the phosphorus and nitrogen in the waste of the farmed fish contributed to the algal bloom along with the changing climatic conditions related to global warming. The farming of fish in these circumstances poses similar threats as the intensive production systems used in the hog industry and other industrialized animal agriculture. Too many animals being kept in close confinement with thousands of others creates a perfect breeding ground for viruses because of the high stress level of the animals. As well, the huge amount of waste emanating from the animals often poses threats to the natural environment because of the excess phosphorus and nitrogen that gets into local waters.

In my view, the solution is to decrease the number of animals and fish that we are trying to raise in such confined spaces.Downsizing in much of what we do from the amount of meat and fish we eat, to all the goods we acquire, can only help to decrease the impact we’re having on the natural world. Our recent trip to South America emphasized to us the degree to which our actions are impacting our environment and in many circumstances fouling the very waters we need for survival. The good news is that we can reverse this trend if we start to make some different choices.



  1. Different continent, different language, but similar problems. Another example of how the local is actually global.

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