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Blog Tags: Chile

Oceana Wins Major Victories in Chile

Treasures of the Juan Fernandez seamounts

It has been a whirlwind few weeks in Chile, where Oceana’s hard work has paid off in some monumental policy victories.

Last week the Chilean senate passed sweeping new fisheries regulations that, simply put, place the health of the oceans ahead of the short-term interests of the fishing industry.

After being proposed by Oceana in 2009, the Chilean senate agreed last week to close all 118 of Chile’s seamounts to bottom trawling. Seamounts are underwater mountain ranges where nutrient-rich water upwells from the deep, fueling a staggering array of biodiversity. The greatest beneficiary of these new measures will be marine life, especially that of the volcanic Juan Fernandez Islands, a remote archipelago and a regular haunt of bottom trawlers.

The new laws will also impose science-based fishing quotas and drastically reduce the incidental capture and discarding of unwanted species, known as bycatch. To do this, the new laws require improved monitoring on Chilean fishing vessels. For the bottom fishing fleet, this means that 100% of ships will require on-board observers to collect information about vulnerable marine ecosystems.

These changes would not have happened without Oceana and during the passage of this historic legislation several senators as well as the Chilean Minister of the Economy singled out our organization for special commendation.

As our executive director of Oceana in Chile, Alex Muñoz, said: “Protecting the seafloor from destructive activities, such as bottom trawling, especially in seamounts and other vulnerable marine ecosystems, is a fundamental measure for responsible fishing.”   

All this comes just after President Sebastian Pinera announced he would seek to expand the Motu Motiro Hiva Marine Park off of Easter Island. No larger than Washington D.C., Easter Island is the world’s most remote inhabited island on the planet—known chiefly to the rest of the world as the home of those inscrutable, stone-faced megaliths, the moai.

But the waters surrounding Easter Island hold treasures as well. Just over 200 miles to the northeast is Sala y Gómez, a desolate volcanic island - the rare mountaintop that pokes above the surface in a range of underwater seamounts. In 2010, after an expedition by Oceana and National Geographic uncovered thriving communities of red corals, Galapagos sharks, butterfly fish and more, President Piñera declared the 58,000 square miles of water surrounding Sala y Gomez a marine park, closed to commercial fishing.

Now, the president has announced that Chile will seek to expand that park to include the range of seamounts that link Sala y Gómez to Easter Island. The president and the government of Chile will next consult with the people of Easter Island, the Rapa Nui, and ask them to endorse this plan.

We have been advocating for the protection of these special places for years and, thanks to your support, future generations will be able to partake of their beauty and diversity.


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Victory: Power Plant Defeated in Chile

seagrass meadows

Seagrass near where the power plant would have been built. © Oceana/Eduardo Sorensen 

Great news from Chile: A planned coal-fired plant, located dangerously close to several biodiverse marine habitats, was shot down by the Chilean Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Coal-powered thermoelectric power plants are notoriously dangerous to the environment. This plant was planned for the Punta Cachos area off of Chile’s northern coast, just a few kilometers from important habitats for Humboldt penguins, sea turtles, and one of Chile’s few seagrass meadows. As part of its operations, the plant would have released warm water into the ocean. This change in temperature could have affected the entire ecosystem, reducing the numbers of mollusks, crustaceans, jellyfish, algae, and sea grasses, all of which are food for the local sea turtle colony.

Despite initial approval by the local environmental commission, this power plant is opposed by the local community of Totoral and various other organizations, including Oceana. The community of Totoral fought against the plan and won a victory, getting their approval revoked, but the company appealed, bringing the case to the Supreme Court. We are pleased that, in the end, the Supreme Court sided with the community, and the oceans.

Oceana’s team in Chile has been working hard to fight against the pollution caused by plants and factories like this one, which affect the coastal ecosystems as well the safety of the local air and water. Congrats to all who helped win this victory for Chile's oceans!


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Victory for Polluted Chilean Community

© Claudia Pool

We have some good news from Chile -- Oceana has been fighting against the approval of a thermoelectric plant, Punta Alcalde, and we are excited to announce that the plant’s permit was denied this week.

The plant was to be built in Huasco, which is already suffering from severe air pollution from four coal-powered thermoelectric power plants and an iron plant operating nearby.

Despite the already grim situation in Huasco, Punta Alcalde did not comply with the government requirements needed to ensure that the plant would not worsen the air quality of the area.

In Huasco and other industrial communities in Chile, these plants have been pumping warm water and pollutants into the oceans, destroying the local ecosystems and raising mercury levels in fish. On land, toxic clouds and heavy-metal contamination are sickening the local populations. A video from another such town, Ventanas, shows the human toll: the fishing industry there is devastated and people are dying with heavy metal contaminants in their bodies.

Oceana has been campaigning for better pollution standards in Chile and working to prevent the construction of new coal-powered thermonuclear plants. Give today to support our work to protect Chile’s people and marine life from severe pollution.

Congratulations to our team in Chile for this significant step forward for the people and marine life of Huasco!


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Video: Chile’s Shockingly Polluted Communities

Our team in Chile has produced a powerful video, and we are excited to share it with you.

The video shows dramatic images and real testimonies from the people of Ventanas, in central Chile, which is severely affected by the pollution from coal-fired power plants and a copper refinery.

Earlier this month, a toxic cloud appeared containing levels of sulfur dioxide 10 times higher than the maximum limit established by the World Health Organization. In response to this and several other major pollution events over the past year, Oceana has been calling on the government to close the industries that operate in that area, at least until a health inspection is completed, and someone is held responsible for the pollution.

Just watch:

Our campaigners in Chile are also working to prohibit the installation of new polluting or dangerous industries in areas already declared as highly polluted.  Sadly, Ventanas is just one example of many communities in Chile that are affected by severe pollution. The environmental costs of the thermoelectric industries and coal refineries are unfairly concentrated in these communities, and their residents are suffering from environmental discrimination.

Stay tuned for more videos that will feature other areas in Chile that are suffering a similar reality. Give today to support our work to protect Chile’s people and marine life from severe pollution.


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Chile to Expand Marine Reserves in 2012

A sea turtle in Hanga Roa Bay, Easter Island. © Oceana/Eduardo Sorensen

Great news today: The Chilean Government announced its intention to expand the Salas y Gómez marine reserve and to create a smaller reserve in Hanga Roa Bay – the harbor right off the main town and capital of historic Easter Island.  This new marine conservation plan for Easter Island is set to be established by the end of the year.

The government also announced the plan to develop an assessment and status report of the main fisheries of Easter Island.

Following an expedition in 2010 to Salas y Gómez Island, led by Oceana, National Geographic, and the Waitt Foundation, the Chilean President announced the creation of the original Salas y Gómez marine reserve. This no-take reserve protects 150,000 square kilometers around the island – an area larger than Greece. 

In 2011, Oceana and National Geographic Society partnered with the Chilean Navy and conducted an unprecedented expedition to study the marine area surrounding Easter Island and Salas y Gómez Island to assess their current states of conservation and potential need for new protection measures.  Using the baseline study developed from this collaboration, Oceana proposed the expansion of the Salas y Gómez marine reserve, Motu Motiro Hiva, to an area of 411,000 km2, making it the second largest no-take marine protected area in the world. 

These marine protected areas can only officially be declared after a referendum is conducted for the people of Easter Island, known as the Rapa Nui, and they give their approval for the proposals. 

Easter Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site, famous for its stone statues, called Moai. Salas y Gómez Island is a small uninhabited island 250 miles east of Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean. It was described by Dr. Enric Sala, marine ecologist and National Geographic Ocean Fellow, as one of the last undisturbed and relatively pristine places left in the ocean. 

We’re excited to hear that Chile is electing to protect its invaluable marine resources in Easter Island and Salas y Gómez – and we’ll keep you posted as things progress.


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Ocean Victories of 2011: Thank You!

© Oceana/Eduardo Sorensen

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.

As we enter the last weeks of 2011, I’d like to thank you again for your support this year. Even as we continue to face global economic insecurity, your support has made it possible for Oceana to win important victories for the oceans.

Here are just a few of the victories you helped us achieve in 2011:

This is a special year for Oceana, because it’s also our 10th anniversary year. In 2001, our founders decided that the world needed a conservation organization that could win real policy changes for the oceans on an international scale.

Since then, Oceana has expanded to six countries, garnered more than half a million supporters and protected 1.2 million square miles of ocean, including innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and the people who depend upon and enjoy the oceans. Our founders are pleased with the results, and we hope you are as well.

We continue to have ambitious goals, not just for 2012, but the next decade. I hope you’ll continue to join us for the ride. Thank you again.


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Video: Underwater Teaser from Chile

Earlier this year, Oceana and National Geographic completed an expedition to Sala y Gómez Island, an uninhabited Chilean island near Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean.

It was a follow-up to our first journey in October 2010, which was instrumental in the creation of a no-take marine reserve of 150,000 square kilometers around the island. Sala y Gómez is part of a chain of seamounts that are vulnerable to fishing activity.

And after months of patiently waiting, we now get to see some of the biodiversity that our colleagues discovered on their expeditions. NatGeo is releasing a documentary about Sala y Gómez, featuring Oceana campaigners as well as Dr. Enric Sala, marine ecologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, who has called Sala y Gómez “one of the last undisturbed and relatively pristine places left in the ocean.

Check out the trailer:

The dive team glimpses 15 Galapagos sharks and scads of slipper lobsters – and that’s just in this three-minute clip! You can catch the full documentary on January 19th at 8 pm on NatGeo WILD.


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New Videos and More in Oceana’s Fall Digital Mag

adrian grenier

Hey ocean lovers, the fall issue of our digital magazine is now available! There's lots of fun stuff inside as usual; here are some of the gems this time around:

*A gorgeous video from our expedition in the Baltic Sea this summer

*A slideshow of photos from this year’s Hamptons Splash party – and a catchy tune by the Honey Brothers with Oceana ambassador Adrian Grenier

*Victory! Chile ends shark finning (warning: includes some gruesome footage)

*Stunning underwater video from this year’s expedition in the Mediterranean

*The 2011 Ocean Heroes – shark loving youngster Sophi Bromenshenkel and marine mammal rescuer Peter Wallerstein

Check out the full issue to see the videos, photos and stories, and spread the word!


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Bottom Trawling Battle in Chile Continues

juan fernandez islands corals

Corals in the Juan Fernandez Islands. © Oceana/Eduardo Sorensen

Oceana in Chile has been working for several years to keep bottom trawlers out of the most vulnerable marine ecosystems in the nation’s waters.  

Back in 2009, we proposed a bill that would close all 118 seamounts in Chile to bottom trawlers, and this week our staff participated in a discussion of the bill by the Chilean Senate’s Fisheries Committee.

Bottom trawling, one of the most destructive forms of fishing, uses a huge, heavy net to scrape the seafloor. Trawlers are indiscriminate, which results in overfishing and the accidental entanglement of animals including sea turtles and marine mammals. And these heavy nets destroy everything in their paths, including coral reefs.

Chile’s seamounts are home to jewel-toned coral reefs and fish, mammals such as fur seals and sea lions, and many more beautiful and unusual creatures. Some of these seamounts are home to species that can be found no where else in the world. Every pass of a bottom trawler turns swaths of these seamounts into barren wastelands.

Oceana’s 2009 proposal would ban bottom trawling on all 118 seamounts until this fishing technique is scientifically proven not to damage the ecosystems in question. Estimates suggest that this ban would have affected only 0.09% of Chile’s seafood exports in 2009.

Alex Muñoz, Oceana’s Vice President for South America, said about the bill, “Protecting vulnerable marine ecosystems that are threatened by trawling not only is important from an ecological point of view but also enhances the productivity of the fisheries that depend on these habitats.”

South America has been making important strides to protect their vulnerable ecosystems. Last year, Chile created a 150,000 square kilometer no-take marine reserve around Sala y Gómez Island and Belize banned bottom trawling throughout its waters.


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Patagonia’s Penguins at Risk from Proposed Coal Mine

magellanic penguin

Magellanic penguins in Chile. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Last month Chile’s government approved a controversial coal mine project in southern Patagonia’s Riesco Island, despite opposition from local residents and environmental groups, including Oceana.

Oceana presented a report to Chile’s environmental ministry outlining the threats facing mammals and birds in the region, including the area’s most emblematic seabird, the Magellanic penguin. The threats from the mine include heavy metal pollution (such as mercury), oil spills, and boat collisions with marine mammals.

Riesco Island is part of Chile’s Alacalufes National Reserve, which is home to an important colony of Magellanic penguins – around 10,000 of the seabirds live around the island. The island and its surroundings are also home to at least 27 species of bird and 7 marine mammal species, including humpback whales. One of the region’s waterways, Otway sound, is one of the only places on the Chilean coast where the Chilean dolphin, bottlenose dolphin and southern dolphin can all be found.

The heavy metals released by coal mining would affect seabirds’ reproduction, especially the penguins. Oil spills can contaminate the eggs, cause death by inhalation and ingestion, and loss of feather waterproofing, which can lead to hypothermia.

Plus, Chile does not have a contingency plan to treat animals affected by oil spills. According to our report, of 76 penguins treated for oil contamination in 2006 in Patagonia’s Madalena Island, 22 died. And in 2004, an oil spill in Chile’s Tierra del Fuego led to the loss of 88% of the adults in a colony of rock cormorants.


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