The tsunami caused by the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Chile on February 27 has had devastating affects on Chile’s fishing industry. According to Gonzalo Olea, a spokesman for Chile’s National Confederation of Small Fishermen, an estimated 1,000 fishing boats close to shore were destroyed by the tsunami. However, some of the larger ships that service the deep waters and were far out to sea survived the tsunami. These ships are still able to deliver catches to ports unaffected by the earthquake.
Location of the 8.8-magnitude earthquake on February 27, 2010. Image: Wikipedia
According to the Encyclopedia of Nations, Chile is ranked fifth in the world in total landings of fish. The fishing industry makes up a huge part of Chile’s economy and the country exported a record 445,000 tons of salmon and trout in 2008 worth just under $2.4 billon. Most of the salmon harvest occurs in the southern part of Chile and well out of range of where the earthquake and tsunami hit, but the quake has already forced tens of thousands into unemployment and prices of salmon are expected to rise, including in the U.S.
Damage near the coast in Talcahuano, Chile. Image: Aliosha Marquez
The fishing season was just getting started when the earthquake occurred. Typically, the fishing season lasts for 3-4 months. The port of Talcahuano, which is near the second largest city in Chile and home to hundreds of small-scale fishermen, was devastated by the tsunami. Boats, port facilities and fishermen’s homes were destroyed and dead fish clogged the port. It is expected to take several months to repair the fishing piers and vessels damaged. With all the damage to fishing boats, ports and roads, transportation is one of the biggest problems the seafood industry faces, although the full extent of the impact on business operations isn’t completely understood.
Dead fish near the coastal town of Talcahuano, Chile. Photo: Aliosha Marquez