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Massive algae bloom kills 23 million salmon

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Monday, March 14, 2016, 9:03 AM - El Niño has helped spur a massive algae bloom responsible for the deaths of 23 million salmon in Chile, according to officials in the country.

The perrenial Pacific phenomenon, which has been one of the strongest on record this past season, is marked by higher-than-normal water temperatures, which Chilean officials say helped trigger the toxic bloom.

"Temperatures are 2 to 4 degrees (Celsius) above average for this time of the year, there's a lot of sunlight, a lack of rain and very mild winds, all of which are conditions for the micro algae to appear," Jose Miguel Burgos, the head of Chile's fisheries agency, told Reuters last week.

Burgos told Reuters that amounted to a loss of up to 20 per cent of the country's annual production, or around 100,000 tonnes, valued at around $800 million.

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Oceana, an environmental group in Chile, says the problem has been made worse by nitrate-rich runoff from livestock from nearby land around the salmon farms, which are typically offshore or in estuaries, Reuters reports.

It's another blow to the Chilean salmon industry, whose efforts to treat a rampant bacterial infection with antibiotics have cost it some U.S. markets.

To put the economic losses from Chile's bloom into perspective, they are more or less equal to the value of Canada's entire farmed salmon industry, valued at $813 million in 2013.

British Columbia accounts for 61 per cent of Canadian production, with substantial amounts entering the market from Newfoundland and the Maritimes as well.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the dollar value of the lost Chilean salmon production. The correct figure is approximately $800 million. We regret the error.

SOURCE: Reuters | The Guardian | Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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