Dead prawns have washed up on a Chilean beach by the millions, sending environmental officials searching to find the cause for the die-off.
The dead shrimp started showing up on a beach in Coronel, which is about 330 miles south of the capital city of Santiago. Local fishermen say that two coal-fired power stations are two blame, claiming that they heated up the water temperature too much for the sensitive prawns.
“I’m 69 years old and started fishing when I was nine but, as a fisherman, I never saw a disaster of this magnitude,” Gregorio Ortega told local Radio Bio Bio via the Daily Mail.
Power generation has become a controversial issue in Chile, which is rapidly expanding its energy production but relying heavily on coal to do so. There is a proposal to dam rivers in Patagonia, but that has drawn strong opposition from people who believe it will cause environmental damage.
A state prosecutor for environmental crimes said her office is investigating the prawn die-off to see if an environmental crime has been committed.
Local officials sorted through the millions of dead prawns that washed up on the beach, clearing them from sand that had turned red.
Environmental officials are looking into the local water temperature and other factors to determine what caused the dead prawns to wash up on the beach.
“We’re investigating the Coronel Bay to establish the physical parameters of temperature, electric conductivity and, above all, the oxygen,” said Victor Casanova, a local environmental investigator.
But it may be more than water temperature causing the dead prawns to wash up. Officials say the shrimp could have been killed by a number of causes including viruses, interference from offshore oil exploration, or even poisoned food sources. It could even be caused by El Nino, which warms up the waters of the Pacific.