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AQUA | Researcher details the solution to end marine pollution

March 13, 2023


In the last 20 years, a high degree of environmental contamination has been evidenced in several coastal places.

Dr. Loretto Contreras Porcia, researcher at the Department of Ecology and Biodiversity of the Faculty of Life Sciences from U. Andrés Bello and the Research Center Marina Quintay (CIMARQ), states that "along the coast, there is a high degree of pollution by nutrients, heavy metals and, in some of them, by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and microplastics."

Regarding the consequences of this contamination, Dr. Contreras explains that it mainly affects marine organisms: "such as the reduction of populations, negative effects on the life cycle, high concentration of pollutants in the biomass, which could generate negative effects on other organisms that consume them, malformations, physiological stress, hormonal alterations, among other records”, he says.

In addition, the researcher adds that "contamination has allowed the increase of individuals called invaders, mainly algae, which can alter native populations."

The biggest sources of pollution

According to Loretto Contreras, the main contamination comes from anthropogenic sources, such as business waste, garbage dumps, cars, forest burning, domestic waste, high tourist activity, among others.

The also researcher at the Center of Applied Ecology and Sustainability (CAPES) and the Millennium Institute for Coastal Socio-Ecology (SECOS), details that Chile “has a high load of natural metals in rocks and sediments. Naturally, over 70% of marine pollution is generated by man”.

Likewise, Contreras warns of a solution: "It is indisputable that one of the great solutions to this is that we educate ourselves and change the current technology to a clean one, truly innocuous in the long term."

How is Chile coping with this phenomenon? The expert underlines that "the findings of contamination and its effects on our coasts, led mainly by scientists from our country, have allowed the State to generate pollution alerts in certain geographical areas."

Dr. Contreras indicated that this has also legitimized "secondary environmental quality standards (NSCA), such as the one being processed for the Quintero-Puchuncaví Bay, which is the first standard for the coasts of our country," adding that "however, getting to generate secondary standards is a great reflection of the fact that there is no prior regulatory regulation of the concentration of toxins in seawater, since there is currently only regulation associated with the emission of pollutants (DS 90 )”.

Education and responsibility


For the UNAB academic and researcher, something essential is that "the population has the right to be educated, and that is the responsibility of both the State and the scientific communities and educational centers." Likewise, it emphasizes that “it is an obligation that we all know what we consume and use, how we dispose of it and how we act towards nature. But this is impossible if there is no environmental education and of our sea”. In this context, Dr. Loretto Contreras will give a master class in an activity organized by the College of Merchant Marine Engineers with the support of CIMARQ-UNAB, between March 13 and 17 and which will be addressed to the entire community of Quintay.

Written by Sonia Tamayo


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