2,000 Birds Found Dead in Chile: Are Fishermen To Blame?
Some 2,000 birds have been found dead on a four-mile stretch of beach in central Chile. The birds include grey petrels, pelicans, gannets and Guanay cormorants. Jose Luis Brito, a natural history and archeology museum director, says that the birds get caught in fishermen’s nets but that “nothing” is done to help them. The birds drown and the fishermen simply throw their bodies back into the sea.
Brito’s museum is in the coastal city of Santo Domingo and he says the museum intends to file a complaint. According to Agence France-Presse via Raw Story, some 100 bird carcasses were found just on Sunday on a beach.
Another theory is that excessive fishing has led to stocks of anchovies — a favorite food of sea-birds — running low, so that the birds are starving to death.
The mysterious reportings of dead birds in Chile follow other grisly discoveries in neighboring Peru. Thousands of maritime birds including pelicans as well as dolphins have been found dead on Peru’s shores in recent weeks. While environmentalists have suggested that oil exploration work is a possible culprit, government authorities blame warm water. According to CNN, the Peruvian National Center for the Study of El Nino says that, since February, marine currents have led to an abundance of warm water:
The warm water has led fish such as anchovy and other species that live in surface waters to migrate to deeper water toward the south. As a result, pelicans and other birds that feed from the surface of the water died of starvation.
“If these oceanographic conditions persist, it is likely that its impact will spread to other areas of the (Peruvian) coast even during the fall, which could make the numbers increase and affect other marine species” said the report.
The deputy minister for strategic development of natural resources, Gabriel Quijandria, says that seafood is still safe to eat and that people can still visit the beaches, but should “avoid contact with the remains of pelicans, dolphins and other animals that are stranded.”
An investigation into what caused the death of 900 dolphins that washed up in the Lambayeque region in Peru between January and April of this year is ongoing. The health ministry is waiting to see what might be revealed in testing for a morbillivirus, which belongs to the same group of viruses that causes measles in humans. Authorities are advising people to stay away from beaches in northern Peru while scientists investigate.
But getting real answers about the deaths of so many marine animals is fraught with difficulties of its own. According to Discovery News, deputy minister of fishing Patricia Majluf has said that she was resigning on Friday as the office was “in disorder, full of irregularities and corruption” — not the kind of set-up needed to move quickly and solve the puzzle of the deaths of so, so many birds and dolphins.
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Photo by Alistair Rae