Chile has been finding a staggering amount of dead sea creatures along its coastline. Last year the country made the news when 300 lard Sei whales were found washed up in a remote bay in the southern part of Patagonia. Scientists launched an expedition after 20 sei whales were reported dead in April. The whales were reported beached in an extremely remote region some 2,000km south of the capital Santiago. When the researchers flew over the region in June, they found the scale of the die-off was much larger: at least 337 dead whales.
Scientists initially said the whales did not bear any wounds, suggesting they may have died of a virus or a harmful algal bloom known as “red tide”. National Geographic will be covering the event in an upcoming edition of the magazine.
Dead Sea Creatures
This year may just be a repeat of last. A surge in algae in the water choked to death an estimated 40,000 tons of salmon in the Los Lagos region, where the Andes Mountains tower over lakes and green farming valleys down to the coast.
“Either way, we need to shift our thinking about how we approach our tenure on the blue planet. ”
This month, some 8,000 tons of sardines washed up at the mouth of the central Queule River while thousands of dead clams piled up on the coast of Chiloe Island.
The authorities blamed a “red tide” of algae and banned fishing in the affected region, putting thousands of fishermen out of work.
Although southern Chile sees red tides every year, this year’s extended further north than usual, Jorge Navarro of the marine institute IDEAL said.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 center of Chile’s long coast, cuttlefish have washed up dead in the thousands. Various beaches in the center of the country were closed, meanwhile, as specimens of the dreaded Portuguese Man-of-War jellyfish, normally foreign to the area, floated nearby.
El Niño is the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation and is associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific, including off the Pacific coast of South America. El Niño Southern Oscillation refers to the cycle of warm and cold temperatures, as measured by sea surface temperature, SST, of the tropical central and eastern Pacific Ocean. El Niño is accompanied by high air pressure in the western Pacific and low air pressure in the eastern Pacific.
The cool phase of ENSO is called “La Niña” with SST in the eastern Pacific below average and air pressures high in the eastern and low in western Pacific. The ENSO cycle, both El Niño and La Niña, causes global changes of both temperatures and rainfall. Mechanisms that cause the oscillation remain under study.
It’s hard to say with any certainty whether these events are part of a natural cycle or are being boosted by climate change. Proponents in either camp will claim that the data support their conclusions.
As a lay person all I can say is if it walk like a duck, sounds like a duck then it probably is a duck! Either way, we need to shift our thinking about how we approach our tenure on the blue planet.