Chilote Fishermen Protest May 2016

Date: 15.05.16
Author: Louise Haywood-Schiefer
Tags:, , , , ,

These are not my average holiday photos I’ll admit, usually I prefer to instagram the joyous, pretty or unusual affectations of time away, keep it lighthearted right?
Yet I do always take my camera regardless of whether I intend to use it or not, so if you get stuck on an island in Southern Chile due to protesting Fishermen, it seems a worthwhile reason to get it out of the bag.

Burning car road blocks, placards, black flags and angry fishermen greeted us at the front line of the barricades in Ancud at the north of the island, but armed with some google translated introductory statements and a mild trepidation (my work isn’t usually reporting world press events!) I started approaching people. My accent is terrible, there was too much noise and the few statements I had saved to my phone didn’t even seem to read particularly well, however we got by with a series of hand gestures, pointing and smiling. They have an important plight and seemed keen to share it, posing for photos for the ‘gringa’, and hoping to spread awareness worldwide.

In a nutshell the protests are about a phenomena called ‘Red Tide’. The sea around Chiloe island and the lake district of Chile is being polluted with a red algae which is killing and poisoning fish, deeming it unsafe for public consumption. The government have banned fishermen from fishing offering only a paltry compensation fee, meaning their whole livelihoods have been turned upside down. They are blaming the large Salmon farms in the area for the poisoning, but common belief is that is a much larger issue related to global warming.

Even though I am safely back in London, the issue there is still unresolved and will be for some time most likely. The island of Chiloe is still on lockdown (we escaped on a tiny plane after three days with some other tourists), and citizens of the mainland are joining the manifestations in support hosting their own marches in Santiago, Valparaiso and many of the other large cities further north.

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