Invading Pacific salmon pose a threat to penguins in southern Argentina

December 30th, 2007 - 12:48 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of National Geographic

Washington, Dec 30 (ANI): A new study has indicated that the colonization and breeding of the Pacific Salmon in rivers in southern Argentina might threaten penguins and other marine creatures in the region.

The study focused on chinook salmon, a Pacific species that has recently become established in the Santa Cruz River system in the Patagonia region of Argentina.

DNA analysis of the Santa Cruz salmon traced the fish back to the failed salmon-ranching experiments on Chile’s Pacific Coast during the 1980s.

According to a report in the National Geographic News, the fish, which is native to the North Pacific, threaten to deprive penguins and sea mammals of foodan ever-increasing risk given the number of invasive salmon currently escaping from fish farms in neighboring Chile.

“Eastern-flowing ocean currents and fish-rich seas off southern Patagonia have likely allowed the salmon to spread to Atlantic waters,” said study team member Miguel Pascual of the Centro Nacional Patagonico in Chubut, Argentina.

“Salmon can migrate long distances in the ocean, and they can be caught almost anywhere in the Southern Ocean,” he added, referring to the waters that surround Antarctica.

The new findings could mean dire consequences for the region’s marine habitat.

“Salmon have a very healthy appetite, so they’re going to consume native fish and prey that other species are dependent on,” said Don Staniford the European representative for the Washington, D.C.-based environmental group Pure Salmon Campaign.

In fact, models indicate that a “medium-size population” of chinook salmons could match the food consumption of the entire penguin population of southern Patagonia

“The cooler waters of southern Argentina make the region most vulnerable to invasion, and the area’s trout rivers are likely targets for the invasive salmon,” the journal quoted Pascual as saying.

“You’ve got a recipe for potential ecological disaster,” said Staniford.

The research team also warns that the number of salmon finding their way to Argentina is likely to grow as Chile moves forward to become the largest farmed salmon producer in the world.

In addition, salmon escapes from Chilean farms are spiraling out of control as well.

“Millions of fish reportedly escaped in a single incident last year, when an earthquake triggered a mini-tsunami that hit salmon farms in Chile’s Aysen region,” said Staniford. “In addition to competing with penguins and sea mammals for prey, escapees can spread disease and parasitic sea lice that affect wild fish,” he added. (ANI)

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