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Environmental scandal in Chile
Date:6/22/2010

This release is available in German.

Until recently, the disastrous scale of the threat posed by salmon farms to the fauna and National Park of the Aysn region of southern Chile was entirely unknown. The unexpected discovery was made by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization and the University of Gttingen, who were studying acoustic communication among the native whales in the region. The researchers not only discovered that the salmon industry is rapidly spreading to the hitherto largely unspoiled south of the region; they also documented the previously unknown threat to the region's native sea lions. The international environmental organisations have expressed their surprise at this accidental discovery. The Gttingen researchers report their observations in the "Correspondence" section of the current edition of the journal Nature.

With an export volume in excess of two billion US dollars, Chile is one of the world's main producers of farmed salmon. The aquaculture, which is carried out on a massive scale, is mainly concentrated on the ramified fjords of the province of Aysn in Patagonia. While parts of the province are classified as a National Park, the protection does not extend to the surrounding sea. The salmon farms, which are entirely legal from the government's perspective, have, in part, devastating impacts on the region's entire ecosystem - not least because Atlantic salmon is an alien species in Chile, introduces diseases and therefore poses an additional risk to already threatened native species. Moreover, the use of medication on the farms and the waste they produce also burden the ecosystem.

The ISA (infectious salmon anaemia) virus, which causes anaemia and death in salmon, has forced many aquaculture operators to close down their farms in northern Chile in recent years. "The farms,
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Contact: Dr. Birgit Krummheuer
birgit.krummheuer@ds.mpg.de
49-551-517-6668
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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