Thousands of giant squid or cuttlefish have died in recent days off the coast of the island of Santa Maria, Arauco, Chile. Experts have not yet been able to determine the causes of the incident and do not know if it is in relation to the El Niño phenomenon.
The decomposing bodies of around 10,000 of these large cephalopods have invaded one of the beaches of this small island causing a health alert, as well as concern from the population and experts in relation to the cause of this environmental disaster, daily La Vanguardia reports.
Residents on the island of Santa Maria said the squid started washing up on the beaches five days ago.
Technicians from the Chilean National Service for Fisheries and Aquaculture (Sernapesca) have collected samples of the dead squid and water for analysis in specialized centers.
Without ruling out the possibility of pollution, experts point out that the mass death of squid may have been caused by the high temperature of the seawater.
The arrival of dead fish and molluscs to the coast of Santa Maria at this time of year (summer in the southern hemisphere) it is relatively common but so far there has not been a case of this scale.
In the absence of more specific data it cannot be ruled out that the high temperature of the sea water in this area of the Pacific is related to El Niño, which on this occasion (2015-2016) has lasted for a particularly long period.
Experts and local police are working to evaluate the gravity of the situation,as to whether it could cause a sanitary emergency.
Heavy machinery was brought in Wednesday to remove the squid.
Some Tweets have emerged about the incident with photos:
— Jorge Luis Palacios (@CSE_PALACIOS) enero 14, 2016
Heavy machinery has now been brought to the island in to help clear away the dead squid, as can be seen in the photo posted to Twitter below by the Chilean Government, who have come under scrutiny for not taking quicker action with the rotting animals.
Equipo de emergencias de la gobernación, rumbo a la Isla Santa María con maquinaria para eliminar varazón de jibias pic.twitter.com/2sGrqtq1zC
— goberconcepción (@GoberdeConce) enero 15, 2016
“God help us that the children do not get sick from the smell,” said one resident in an interview with Reuters news agency.
Deputy Police Chief, Mario Grandon, said that the squid have been rotting for nearly a week.
“Experts are coming here to determine whether the incident could cause sanitary emergency, which is probable, given the quantity of squid that have washed up here,” he said.
Rodrigo Valencia of the National Fishing and Agriculture Service says that the reason the squid are there is weather related.
“It was caused by an upwelling, due to a drop in oxygen levels, which led to the death of these creatures,” Valencia said.
Experts say preliminary evidence suggests the squid died and washed up on shore due to an phenomenon called “upwelling,” which is when dense, cooler and usually nutrient-rich water moves towards the ocean surface, replacing the warmer, usually nutrient-depleted surface water.
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