Photo series: Chilean fishermen struggle amid toxic algal bloom

[Chile] This string of islands off Chile’s coast was once best known for its dramatic landscapes, rich wildlife, quaint stilt homes and colonial-era churches. But today, it is getting attention for something far less picturesque — a toxic algal bloom that is threatening its marine life and the livelihoods of the fishermen who depend on it.

In this May 7, 2016 photo, early morning sun rays glitter on the water where boats are anchored in the fishing village Quetalmahue, Chiloe Island, Chile. Chiloe is best-known for its wildlife, stilt homes and preserved churches. But today, it is also known for what fishermen here call a "quiet catastrophe"� due to a toxic algal bloom threatening the livelihood of many in this archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 7, 2016 photo, early morning sun rays glitter on the water where boats are anchored in the fishing village Quetalmahue, Chiloe Island, Chile. Chiloe is best-known for its wildlife, stilt homes and preserved churches. But today, it is also known for what fishermen here call a “quiet catastrophe” due to a toxic algal bloom threatening the livelihood of many in this archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

“They killed our ocean,” said Marisol Millaquien, who has been out of work for weeks due to the foul-smelling algae that has coated coastal waters with a harmful scum known as a “red tide.”

In this May 9, 2016 photo, shellfish washed ashore blanket the shore in Cucao, on Chiloe Island, Chile. The government has declared an emergency zone along Chile's south and in Chiloe as it deals with the country's worst ever "red tide," which can be lethal to fish and other marine forms with a toxin that paralyzes the central nervous system. Consumption of shellfish from red tide areas can poison humans as well. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 9, 2016 photo, shellfish washed ashore blanket the shore in Cucao, on Chiloe Island, Chile. The government has declared an emergency zone along Chile’s south and in Chiloe as it deals with the country’s worst ever “red tide,” which can be lethal to fish and other marine forms with a toxin that paralyzes the central nervous system. Consumption of shellfish from red tide areas can poison humans as well. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Simply referred to as the “quiet catastrophe” by local fishermen, Chile’s worst-ever red tide of toxic algae has prompted the government to declare an emergency zone along the southern coast that encompasses these islands known for some of the region’s best bird watching.

In this May 10, 2016 photo, small scale fisherwoman Marisol Millaquien sips on a cup of mate, an herbal tea, in her home in the fishing village Quetalmahue, on Chile's Chiloe Island. Like many other residents, she's in disbelief of scientists who say that the red tide environmental disaster that's killing fish was caused by warmer temperatures stemming from this year's "Godzilla" El Nino weather phenomenon. Instead, she believes that commercial salmon farms in Chile are to blame for dumping contaminated fish near the coast. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 10, 2016 photo, small scale fisherwoman Marisol Millaquien sips on a cup of mate, an herbal tea, in her home in the fishing village Quetalmahue, on Chile’s Chiloe Island. Like many other residents, she’s in disbelief of scientists who say that the red tide environmental disaster that’s killing fish was caused by warmer temperatures stemming from this year’s “Godzilla” El Nino weather phenomenon. Instead, she believes that commercial salmon farms in Chile are to blame for dumping contaminated fish near the coast. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Algal blooms can be lethal to fish, birds and other marine animals, emitting a toxin that paralyzes the central nervous system. Consumption of shellfish from red tide areas can also poison humans.

In this May 10, 2016 photo, small scale fisherwoman Marisol Millaquien fires up a wood stove in her home in the fishing village Quetalmahue, on Chile's Chiloe Island during the country's worst ever "red tide" environmental disaster. "We can't catch anything now. Not even to eat, to survive," Millaquien, a single mother of three said. "Any plague could have hit us before but we would have been fine as long as we had enough seafood." (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 10, 2016 photo, small scale fisherwoman Marisol Millaquien fires up a wood stove in her home in the fishing village Quetalmahue, on Chile’s Chiloe Island during the country’s worst ever “red tide” environmental disaster. “We can’t catch anything now. Not even to eat, to survive,” Millaquien, a single mother of three said. “Any plague could have hit us before but we would have been fine as long as we had enough seafood.” (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

The view from Millaquien’s stilt home is desolate: Dozens of abandoned ghostly boats, dead birds and shellfish fill the landscape. “I’m 46. I’ve seen red tide before, but never like this,” she said.

In this May 10, 2016 photo, small scale fisherwoman Marisol Millaquien stands on the shore backdropped by idle boats in the fishing village Quetalmahue, on Chile's Chiloe Island, during the country's worst ever "red tide" environmental disaster. "They killed our ocean," said Millaquien, who has been out of work for three weeks due to a toxic algal bloom that is threatening the livelihood of many in this archipelago located in the Pacific Ocean. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 10, 2016 photo, small scale fisherwoman Marisol Millaquien stands on the shore backdropped by idle boats in the fishing village Quetalmahue, on Chile’s Chiloe Island, during the country’s worst ever “red tide” environmental disaster. “They killed our ocean,” said Millaquien, who has been out of work for three weeks due to a toxic algal bloom that is threatening the livelihood of many in this archipelago located in the Pacific Ocean. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Like many residents, she doesn’t believe scientists who say the environmental disaster was caused by warmer temperatures stemming from this year’s El Nino weather phenomenon.

Instead, she blames commercial salmon farms in Chile that she accuses of dumping contaminated fish near the coast. Millions of salmon died earlier this year due to another algal bloom that asphyxiated fish by decreasing oxygen in the water.

In this May 10, 2016 photo, small scale fisherwoman Marisol Millaquien arrives to work at a local fish and seafood plant, in a Quetalmahue fishing village in Chiloe, Chile, during the country's worst ever "red tide" environmental disaster. Millaquien says she's worried about the residents of Chiloe and how food scarcity is creating tensions among her otherwise tight-knit community. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 10, 2016 photo, small scale fisherwoman Marisol Millaquien arrives to work at a local fish and seafood plant, in a Quetalmahue fishing village in Chiloe, Chile, during the country’s worst ever “red tide” environmental disaster. Millaquien says she’s worried about the residents of Chiloe and how food scarcity is creating tensions among her otherwise tight-knit community. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

“We can’t catch anything now. Not even to eat, to survive,” lamented the single mother of three. “Any plague could have hit us before but we would have been fine as long as we had enough seafood.”

This May 10, 2016 photo shows a seafood stall temporally closed for business due to the red tide crisis effecting sea creatures, making them too toxic to consume, in Ancud, Chiloe island, Chile. Millions of salmon died earlier this year due to another algal bloom that asphyxiates fish by decreasing oxygen in the water. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
This May 10, 2016 photo shows a seafood stall temporally closed for business due to the red tide crisis effecting sea creatures, making them too toxic to consume, in Ancud, Chiloe island, Chile. Millions of salmon died earlier this year due to another algal bloom that asphyxiates fish by decreasing oxygen in the water. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Fishing is the backbone of the economy for many communities along Chile’s long coast. Millaquien says she’s worried about the residents of Chiloe and how food scarcity is creating tensions among her otherwise tight-knit community.

In this May 10, 2016, Marco, the 19-year-old son of fisherwoman Marisol Millaquien, prepares to take out a boat on an expedition, in hopes of providing food for the dinner table, in Quetalmahue, on Chile's Chiloe Island, during the country's worst ever "red tide" environmental disaster. The view from Millaquien's stilt home is desolate: dozens of abandoned ghostly boats, dead birds and shellfish. "I'm 46. I've seen red tide before, but never like this," she said. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 10, 2016, Marco, the 19-year-old son of fisherwoman Marisol Millaquien, prepares to take out a boat on an expedition, in hopes of providing food for the dinner table, in Quetalmahue, on Chile’s Chiloe Island, during the country’s worst ever “red tide” environmental disaster. The view from Millaquien’s stilt home is desolate: dozens of abandoned ghostly boats, dead birds and shellfish. “I’m 46. I’ve seen red tide before, but never like this,” she said. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

“Some are depressed. Marriages have split up. And it all has to do with this, because there’s hunger. Children lack milk, there are bills to pay and no one can wait,” she said.

Experts say the red tide could linger for months.

This May 10, 2016 photo shows a padlocked seafood stall temporally closed for business effected by the red tide crisis that makes sea creatures too toxic to consume, in Ancud, Chiloe island, Chile. Experts say the red tide could linger for months. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
This May 10, 2016 photo shows a padlocked seafood stall temporally closed for business effected by the red tide crisis that makes sea creatures too toxic to consume, in Ancud, Chiloe island, Chile. Experts say the red tide could linger for months. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Meanwhile, food and gasoline have been scarce after small-scale fishermen blocked the island from the mainland, lighting flaming barricades for days to demand more compensation from the government.

In this May 8, 2016 photo a dead sea lion lies on the shore of Mar Brava, in Ancud in Chile's Chiloe Island, during the country's worst ever "red tide" environmental disaster. Chiloe is best-known for its wildlife, stilt homes and preserved churches. But today, it is also known for what fishermen here call a "quiet catastrophe" due to a toxic algal bloom threatening the livelihood of many in this archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 8, 2016 photo a dead sea lion lies on the shore of Mar Brava, in Ancud in Chile’s Chiloe Island, during the country’s worst ever “red tide” environmental disaster. Chiloe is best-known for its wildlife, stilt homes and preserved churches. But today, it is also known for what fishermen here call a “quiet catastrophe” due to a toxic algal bloom threatening the livelihood of many in this archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

But Millaquien says she is not likely to receive any government help. Despite her years of catching seafood, she doesn’t appear on the official registry among those eligible for compensation.

 

In this May 9, 2016 photo, residents shout anti-government slogans as they protest in Ancud, Chile's Chiloe Island, during the country's worst ever "red tide" environmental disaster. The government has offered about $220 a month to some 5,000 local fishermen as compensation, but they're demanding twice that, saying the offer isn't enough to cover basic needs. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 9, 2016 photo, residents shout anti-government slogans as they protest in Ancud, Chile’s Chiloe Island, during the country’s worst ever “red tide” environmental disaster. The government has offered about $220 a month to some 5,000 local fishermen as compensation, but they’re demanding twice that, saying the offer isn’t enough to cover basic needs. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 11, 2016 photo, diver Jose Luis Cifuentes walks to his boat in the fishing village Quetalmahue, in Chiloe island, Chile, during the country's worst ever "red tide" environmental disaster. Even though Cifuentes has been on strike for three weeks, he regularly scoops out water from his boat to keep it from water rot. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 11, 2016 photo, diver Jose Luis Cifuentes walks to his boat in the fishing village Quetalmahue, in Chiloe island, Chile, during the country’s worst ever “red tide” environmental disaster. Even though Cifuentes has been on strike for three weeks, he regularly scoops out water from his boat to keep it from water rot. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 11, 2016 photo Jose Luis Cifuentes jumps out of his boat after removing water that had gathered inside his boat in the fishing village Quetalmahue, in Chiloe Island, Chile, during the country's worst ever "red tide" environmental disaster. Even though Cifuentes has been on strike for three weeks, he regularly scoops out water from his boat to keep it from water rot. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 11, 2016 photo Jose Luis Cifuentes jumps out of his boat after removing water that had gathered inside his boat in the fishing village Quetalmahue, in Chiloe Island, Chile, during the country’s worst ever “red tide” environmental disaster. Even though Cifuentes has been on strike for three weeks, he regularly scoops out water from his boat to keep it from water rot. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 12, 2016 photo, diver Jose Luis Cifuentes, shoulders his five-year-old stepson Martin, as he walks with his young sister-in-law Escarleth Araneda, to a protest in Ancud, in Chiloe Island, Chile, during the country's worst ever "red tide" environmental disaster. Food and gasoline have been scarce after small-scale fishermen blocked the island from the mainland, lighting flaming barricades for days to demand more compensation from the government. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 12, 2016 photo, diver Jose Luis Cifuentes, shoulders his five-year-old stepson Martin, as he walks with his young sister-in-law Escarleth Araneda, to a protest in Ancud, in Chiloe Island, Chile, during the country’s worst ever “red tide” environmental disaster. Food and gasoline have been scarce after small-scale fishermen blocked the island from the mainland, lighting flaming barricades for days to demand more compensation from the government. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
This May 10, 2016 photo shows a direction road sign defaced with a spray-painted message that reads in Spanish, "Crisis in Chiloe", near a barricade set up by small scale fishermen, at the entrance of Ancud, in Chiloe island, Chile. A toxic algal bloom is threatening the coast's marine life and the livelihoods of the fishermen who depend on it. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
This May 10, 2016 photo shows a direction road sign defaced with a spray-painted message that reads in Spanish, “Crisis in Chiloe”, near a barricade set up by small scale fishermen, at the entrance of Ancud, in Chiloe island, Chile. A toxic algal bloom is threatening the coast’s marine life and the livelihoods of the fishermen who depend on it. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 7, 2016 photo, the carcass of a seabird lies on the shore of Mar Brava, in Ancud, Chile's Chiloe Island. The government has declared an emergency zone along Chile's south and in Chiloe as it deals with the country's worst ever "red tide," which can be lethal to fish and other marine forms with a toxin that paralyzes the central nervous system. Consumption of shellfish from red tide areas can poison humans as well. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 7, 2016 photo, the carcass of a seabird lies on the shore of Mar Brava, in Ancud, Chile’s Chiloe Island. The government has declared an emergency zone along Chile’s south and in Chiloe as it deals with the country’s worst ever “red tide,” which can be lethal to fish and other marine forms with a toxin that paralyzes the central nervous system. Consumption of shellfish from red tide areas can poison humans as well. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
This May 10, 2015 photo shows a storefront window emblazoned with a message that reads in Spanish "Chiloe defends its sea, its land, and its people" in Ancud, in Chile's Chiloe island, during the country's worst ever "red tide" environmental disaster. The government has offered about $220 a month to some 5,000 local fishermen as compensation, but they're demanding twice that, saying the offer isn't enough to cover basic needs. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
This May 10, 2015 photo shows a storefront window emblazoned with a message that reads in Spanish “Chiloe defends its sea, its land, and its people” in Ancud, in Chile’s Chiloe island, during the country’s worst ever “red tide” environmental disaster. The government has offered about $220 a month to some 5,000 local fishermen as compensation, but they’re demanding twice that, saying the offer isn’t enough to cover basic needs. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 10, 2016 photo, Marco Cifuentes carries his boat anchor and a medicinal plant called "matico" for his mother, as he walks in the waters at the edge of the fishing village Quetalmahue, in Chile's Chiloe island. Cifuentes' mother said she mixes the medicinal plant with mate to calm her nerves which she says has caused them to frazzle because of the "red tide" environmental crisis. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 10, 2016 photo, Marco Cifuentes carries his boat anchor and a medicinal plant called “matico” for his mother, as he walks in the waters at the edge of the fishing village Quetalmahue, in Chile’s Chiloe island. Cifuentes’ mother said she mixes the medicinal plant with mate to calm her nerves which she says has caused them to frazzle because of the “red tide” environmental crisis. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 7, 2015 photo idle fishing boats are anchored in the waters of the fishing village Quetalmahue, in Chile's Chiole Island. Simply referred to as the "quiet catastrophe" by local fishermen, Chile's worst-ever red tide of toxic algae has prompted the government to declare an emergency zone along the southern coast that encompasses these islands known for some of the region's best bird watching. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 7, 2015 photo idle fishing boats are anchored in the waters of the fishing village Quetalmahue, in Chile’s Chiole Island. Simply referred to as the “quiet catastrophe” by local fishermen, Chile’s worst-ever red tide of toxic algae has prompted the government to declare an emergency zone along the southern coast that encompasses these islands known for some of the region’s best bird watching. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 6, 2016 photo, a fisherman places a Chilean national flag in his boat that is serving as a barricade, blocking a road in Ancud in Chile's Chiloe Island, during the country's worst ever "red tide" environmental disaster. Food and gasoline have been scarce after small-scale fishermen blocked the island from the mainland, lighting flaming barricades for days to demand more compensation from the government. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 6, 2016 photo, a fisherman places a Chilean national flag in his boat that is serving as a barricade, blocking a road in Ancud in Chile’s Chiloe Island, during the country’s worst ever “red tide” environmental disaster. Food and gasoline have been scarce after small-scale fishermen blocked the island from the mainland, lighting flaming barricades for days to demand more compensation from the government. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 10, 2016 photo, a fisherman walks on the shore of the fishing village Quetalmahue in Chile's Chiloe island, Chile, during the country's worst ever "red tide" environmental disaster. This string of islands off Chile's coast was once best known for its dramatic landscapes, rich wildlife, quaint stilt homes and colonial-era churches. But today, it is getting attention for something far less picturesque, a toxic algal bloom that is threatening its marine life and the livelihoods of the fishermen who depend on it. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
In this May 10, 2016 photo, a fisherman walks on the shore of the fishing village Quetalmahue in Chile’s Chiloe island, Chile, during the country’s worst ever “red tide” environmental disaster. This string of islands off Chile’s coast was once best known for its dramatic landscapes, rich wildlife, quaint stilt homes and colonial-era churches. But today, it is getting attention for something far less picturesque, a toxic algal bloom that is threatening its marine life and the livelihoods of the fishermen who depend on it. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

 

Photo: In this May 10, 2016 photo, diver Jose Luis Cifuentes covers his face in exhaustion and frustration saying he has no money to buy food, inside his mother-in-law’s home in Ancud, Chiloe Island, Chile, during the country’s worst ever “red tide” environmental disaster. Chile is among the world’s top suppliers of salmon and fishing is the backbone of the economy for many communities along the country’s long coast. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

View original article at: Pictured: Chilean fishermen struggle amid toxic algal bloom

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