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Environmental scandal in Chile
Date:6/22/2010

however, are now spreading further south," reports Heike Vester from the Norwegian research institute Ocean Sounds, who is currently completing her doctorate at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization and the University of Gttingen. Because the region's ramified fjords are difficult to access from land, the full scale of the impact of this development only became clear to her when she was carrying out research from the water. Vester's photographs document, among other things, the threat posed to the South American sea lion. The animals get caught in the protective nets surrounding the salmon farms when young and, even if they manage to free themselves, parts of the nets often remain stuck to the sea lions and suffocate them as they grow (Image 1).

The salmon farms also incur other negative effects on the ecosystem: large volumes of excess feed for the farmed fish and their faeces can be seen floating in the water, and the crowded conditions under which the salmon are kept necessitate the use of medication and pesticides. Measurements taken by other participants in the Gttingen researcher's expedition prove that no forms of life now exist in direct proximity to the farms. "The air there smells like bleach," says Vester.

Acoustic measurements carried out in the field by the biologist also reveal the existence of another invisible threat: the ships that supply the farms and the generators of the feeding machines generate constant noise. "This noise can drive the threatened marine mammals, for example blue, humpback and sei whales and Peale's dolphins and Chilean dolphins, away and disrupt their communication in the ramified fjords and channels," explains Marc Timme from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, who is co-supervising Heike Vester's doctoral thesis.

The north of the province of Aysn, where many salmon farms were shut down and abandoned due to the virus, also presents a bleak picture.
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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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