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Wave of dead sea creatures hits Chile's beaches

Heaps of dead whales, salmon and sardines blamed on the El Nino freak weather phenomenon have clogged Chile's Pacific beaches in recent months.
Last year, scientists were shocked when more than 300 whales turned up dead on remote bays of the southern coast. It was the first in a series of grim finds.
At the start of this year, a surge in algae in the water choked to death an estimated 40,000 tons of salmon in the Los Lagos region, where the Andes tower over lakes and green farming valleys down to the coast.
That is about 12 percent of annual salmon production in Chile, the world's second-biggest producer of the fish after Norway.
This month, some 8,000 tons of sardines were washed up at the mouth of the Queule river. And thousands of dead clams piled up on the coast of Chiloe Island.
Authorities blamed a "red tide" of algae.
They banned fishing in the affected region, putting thousands of fishermen out of work.
"We have red tides every year in southern Chile, but this time it reached further north," said Jorge Navarro, a researcher at the marine institute IDEAL.
"It affected bivalve populations (such as clams) that had never before been exposed like this" to the algae, he said.
On the shores of Santa Maria Island off the center off Chile's long coast, cuttlefish have been washed up dead in the thousands.
Various beaches in the center of the country were closed meanwhile as the specimens of the dreaded Portuguese Man-of-War jellyfish, normally foreign to the area, floated nearby.
- Shifting oceans -
Scientists largely blame the anomalies on El Nino, a disruptive weather phenomenon that comes with warming sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.
With its 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles) of Pacific coastline, Chile is particularly exposed to the effects of El Nino, which strikes every few years.
"We think that a common factor in the deaths of creatures in southern Chile, in the salmon farms and in fish off the coast is the El Nino phenomenon," said experts at the Chilean fisheries institute IFOP.
The current El Nino "has been classed as one of the most intense in the past 65 years," they told AFP in a statement.
Warmer sea water can lead to greater quantities of algae. They kill others species by consuming oxygen in the water or filling it with toxins.
"The Chilean ocean is shifting and changing," said Sergio Palma, an oceanographer at Valparaiso Catholic University.
"There has been a series of events that indicate an El Nino which is making its presence felt in many ways."
- Fish farming impact -
But scientists also suspect other causes for the mass destruction of the sea creatures.
The huge toll of whales last year "could be caused by a natural ecological process" that may be nothing to do with what killed the sardines and clams, said Laura Farias, an oceanographer at Concepcion University.
"There is no ecological, oceanographic or climatic explanation" linking the whales to the other incidents, she said.
She suspects the growth of fish farming in Chile's southern Patagonia region is to blame for killing the salmon and clams.
"There are studies indicating that in Patagonia the greater occurrence of toxic blooms could be a consequence of aquaculture."
Various scientists have said the current El Nino seems to be subsiding, causing the surface of the sea to cool slowly.
The mass destruction of sea life has been a wake-up call, however.
"Chile still lacks information about the sea," said Valesca Montes, a fisheries specialist at the Chilean branch of the World Wildlife Fund.
"It has to invest in oceanographic studies, so that we can predict certain events" and be better prepared for climate change.


Mysterious fish die-off in Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world, terrifies residents

Lake Toba is the largest volcanic lake in the world occupying the caldera of a supervolcano on the Island of Sumatra in Indonesia.

Millions of fish were found dead by fishermen between May 3 and May 5, 2016. Officials are unable to find the source of the mass killing but think it is linked to the lack of dissolved oxygen in the water. Could the drop in oxygen content in the north-east of lake Toba be the result of volcanic activity of some kind?

  It all started one month ago, when fishermen at Lake Toba started to find dead fish in their nets.

lake toba mass die-off, lake toba fish mass die-off, lake toba eruption, volcanic unrest lake toba, mysterious fish kill lake toba, mysterious mass die-off lake toba, lake toba supervolcano eruption
via Beritasatu
But the mysterious die-offs have suddenly increased beginning of this month, when professional fishermen caught more than 320 tones (May 3, 2016) and then 800 tons (May 5, 2016) of dead fish… In overall about 1500 tones in 3 days! So millions of fish!

lake toba mass die-off, lake toba fish mass die-off, lake toba eruption, volcanic unrest lake toba, mysterious fish kill lake toba, mysterious mass die-off lake toba, lake toba supervolcano eruption
via Vulkania.ru
Fishermen report these apocalyptical fish kills have never happened before. Normally, they only find a few dead fish. But this time, all the fish are dead.

 Officials aren’t able to clearly pinpoint the cause of this still unexplained mass die-off but believe it is related to the lack of dissolved oxygen in the water.

Strange Sounds


Monster Humanoid Godzilla-Like Marine Iguana Scares British Media

The headlines are telling about a recent reptile video making the rounds on social media:
And what exactly was the Godzilla-like creature that got British tabloid writers into a panic? A mere marine iguana that grows to about 4 to 5 feet in length and feeds exclusively on algae that it rasps off rocks on the ocean bottom.
The British media, though, would have you thinking otherwise, what with the allusions to Godzilla terrifying the divers who captured the footage of this particular reptile at Cabo Marshall, a dive site off Isabela in the Galapagos island chain, the only known islands in which these lizards can be found.
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The Daily Star was the biggest offender. It says the lizard caused panic among the humans who encountered the reptile, but the only “panic” the divers may have encountered would be either: 1. running out of air as they filmed this magnificent creature swimming in the ocean, or 2. running out of space on the video camera used to capture the footage. The Daily Star also reported the lizard as a 7-footer. At 7 feet in length, this particular iguana would be about the average size of a Komodo dragon, a reptile that can grow to 10 feet in length and has been documented to attack humans. Most reputable information outlets describe the marine iguana as averaging 3 to 5 feet in length, its size varying based on what island in the chain it is found.
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Does this creature look like a humanoid Godzilla? Via Steve Winkworth/YouTube
Does this creature look like a humanoid Godzilla? Via Steve Winkworth/YouTube
“The hungry lizard was filmed by Steve Winkworth as it prowled like a cynical hunter before surfacing for air,” the Daily Star story reports.
Yes sir, that cynical hunter is 100 percent vegetarian. That’s right. The marine iguana is no more a cynical hunter than a cow.
The coverage of the reptile on another British news site, the Mirror, was a bit tame compared to the Daily Star. The writer did say the iguana was as big as the divers who were swimming near and next to it, but forced perspective of the video must be taken into account coupled with the fact that water tends to magnify imagery. But you have to give points to the Mirror for at least calling the marine iguana what it is, a herbivore.
Yahoo News Australia (‘Mini-Godzilla’ marine iguana filmed in incredible underwater feeding session) also got it right mostly. It, however, reported the reptile at 6 feet in length. But you have to love that headline, too.
The marine iguana is not a monster, though Charles Darwin apparently called them disgusting clumsy lizards. Nor are they “humanoid Godzillas.” They are just lizards that feed exclusively on algae. And, they are not the size of a human. The coverage of this Godzilla-Like Humanoid Lizard Bigger Than A Human Monster? Lame. Winkworth’s video, though, is absolutely brilliant!



Mexico City gets choked by worst smog in decades

Mexico City is in the grips of a pollution crisis.
Authorities have issued the first smog alerts for the city in more than a decade and recently implemented restrictions on when cars can be on the road. On Wednesday, for example, two-in-five cars were ordered off the road because the pollution reached such high levels.
In addition, Mexico City closed a loophole in its existing rules that kept about 20 percent of cars off the road each day. Now, even vehicles certified as low-emission will also be banned on designated days, typically based on a number on their license plates.
The pollution problem isn't new for Mexico City. Some driving restrictions have been in place for years. But still, according to the Wall Street Journal, the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness estimates that 1,823 people each year die prematurely in Mexico City because of air pollution. The city's geography is a major factor in the city's bad air. Surrounded by mountains, during the city's dry season, smog just sits and accumulates.
Warmer tempeatures — it's been in the mid-80s this week — also contribute to the thick smog.
The new, tighter restrictions are set to remain in place until the rainy season arrives this summer.
In the meantime, the city is offering free bus and subway rides as a way to get people off the road. And it's also proving to be a profit center for some businesses. Uber has a major presence in the city and is setting high surge prices.
According to a story in Quartz, Uber was charging a 9.9x surge on rides in Mexico City on Wednesday. In response, the app has been pushing its UberPool service, which allows users to share a ride with others going the same direction for a lower price.
In the meantime, environmentalists and scientists wonder if the new restrictions will actually reduce the pollution at all. They blame new freeways and a court decision that reversed a ban on older model cars for getting more vehicles moving on the streets.
So what are residents to do? The World's Global Nation editor Monica Campbell, who lives in Mexico City, said there are a few options that really boil down to this: Stay indoors, or try to escape the city for some fresh air. Hear more from her:

This story first published on PRI.org.
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