Blog Tags: Chile
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.
Earlier this year, Oceana Chile sailed to far-flung Alexander Selkirk Island, named for the Scottish sailor who spent four years as a castaway on the island, probably inspiring the story of Robinson Crusoe.
The island is one of three that comprise the Juan Fernández Archipelago, which sits more than 400 miles off the coast of Chile.
Check out the stunning footage they came back with:
As you can see, the expedition team found a surprising abundance and diversity of species around the island, including lobsters and many kinds of fish. While the archipelago has been compared to the Galápagos Islands for its rich biodiversity, it lacks conservation measures against destructive fishing. As a result, Oceana has been working for several years with the fishing communities of Juan Fernández to protect their exceptional marine resources.
Great news! Chile’s Congress has voted unanimously to ban shark finning -- and I’m proud to announce that it’s a direct result of our work.
The bill, which Oceana drafted and campaigned for, will end the brutal practice of shark finning, in which a shark’s fins are sliced off and the shark is thrown back into the water to suffocate or bleed to death. The new bill requires sharks to be landed with their fins still naturally attached.
This victory follows on the heels of a very similar ban passed by the United States Congress last December. Chile’s adoption of the same approach is heartening at a time when sharks are in serious trouble around the world.
Up to 78 million sharks are killed each year for their fins, and Chile has become a major shark fin exporter. A Freedom of Information Act request filed by Oceana revealed that between 2006 and 2009, Chile exported more than 71 tons of shark fins from 8 different species.
With the passage of this bill, Chile joins a growing list of countries leading the way in shark conservation. This legislation will help protect shark populations and ocean health in Chile and beyond.
Congratulations to our Chilean colleagues, and thanks to supporters like you, whose support makes it possible for us to win significant victories like this one.
Hey ocean lovers, the spring issue of our digital magazine is now available! We’re pretty excited about it; here are some of the features this time around:
*A stunning photo slideshow of Chile’s Salas y Gomez Island, where we recently helped create the world’s fourth-largest no-take marine reserve.
*Comedians Rachael Harris and Angela Kinsey join Oceana to save sea turtles.
*Victory! Belize ends trawling once and for all.
*Video of Jeff Bridges’ performance at the 2010 SeaChange Summer Party.
*Trailer for Ted Danson’s new book, “Oceana”.
Check out the full issue to see the videos, photos and stories, and spread the word!
I have several good news items to share with you this week.
First, I am happy to announce that our trawling ban in Belize is now official. Belize is home to a major portion of the world’s second largest reef system as a well as a thriving local fishing community, and the ban protects both these essential elements of Belizean life.
Belize is one of only a few countries in the world to completely ban trawling. We won this important victory with the help of the local community, our staff in Belize and Sir Thomas Moore, a longtime supporter of Oceana’s work around the world.
Second, we have made great strides in our campaign to save sharks. As top predators, sharks are essential to a healthy ocean, and a hundred million sharks are killed every year by the industrial fishing industry – mostly for their fins.
Late last year, we won an incredible victory to protect sharks with the passage of the Shark Conservation Act, which banned shark finning in the United States. Now, we are on the verge of gaining two more important victories to protect sharks.
The good news just keep coming in Chile. Yesterday the Chilean Supreme Court ruled against a lawsuit filed by the laboratory Veterquímica to prevent the Livestock and Agriculture Bureau (SAG) from disclosing information to Oceana.
The case began in 2009, when Oceana submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to SAG to access documents that the Bureau used to approve the use of quinolone-related antibiotics in Chile’s salmon farming industry. The SAG denied the information due to the opposition of the laboratories Veterquímica, Recalcine and Centrovet, the main suppliers of these chemicals in Chile. Now the SAG has until April 5th to disclose the documents that supported its decision to approve such antibiotics.
For the second time in less than a year, Oceana has helped to defeat a coal-fired power plant on the coast of northern Chile. The CAP company announced last week that it was withdrawing its plans to construct the Cruz Grande thermoelectric power plant.
Cruz Grande was slated to be a 300-megawatt thermoelectric power plant in the region of La Higuera in Northern Chile, a few miles from the Choros-Damas and Chañaral island marine reserves, and near the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, which is home to the world’s largest population of Humboldt penguins. The region also hosts communities of bottlenose dolphins, marine otters and many marine birds and mammals, including blue whales.
These creatures and habitats were at risk from the plant’s emissions, which would have arrived quickly to the reserves. The plant would have used the area’s seawater to cool the plant, discharging it back into the ocean at higher temperatures. Oil spills from ships carrying coal to the plants would seep there in a few hours, and the local currents would retain the pollution within the area. Plus, mercury emissions from the plants would contaminate fish and mollusks like the Chilean abalone, damaging a crucial local industry.
Excellent news for sharks in Chile: Last week the Fisheries Committee of the Chilean Senate voted unanimously to advance legislation that would ban shark finning. Oceana helped promote the bill, which now heads to the Senate for a vote.
Of the 30 species of sharks caught in Chilean fisheries, at least 15 are subject to finning, and blue sharks and mako sharks are the most affected species.
Oceana filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the Chilean National Customs Service, which revealed that between 2006 and 2009, 71 tons of dry shark fins were exported and corresponded to eight different species.
In 2006, the Chilean Government pledged to take conservation measures for sharks through a National Action Plan for Shark Conservation which, among other goals, aims to eliminate finning.
If the bill is approved, shark finning will be banned and sharks will have to be landed with all their fins naturally and completely attached to their bodies. Also, the presence of loose fins on-board, or the transportation or transfer of cut shark fins between vessels, will be totally prohibited.
We’ll keep you posted as the bill moves through the Chilean Congress. The momentum to end shark finning around the world appears to be growing, which is great news for sharks and the oceans.
Last year, the support of our members helped us win major victories all over the world. We helped score a ban on trawling in Belize's waters, blocked a coal burning power plant in Chile, and helped win the passage of the Shark Conservation Act in the US. But we still have work to do and we need your help!
Donate $35 by February 28 and you'll get our reusable water bottle, which helps cut down on single use plastic pollution. Donate $100 or more and you'll also get one year of our quarterly printed magazine, full of info about our work all over the world, interviews with our celebrity supporters, tips on sustainable seafood, and more!
2010 was a year full of successes for us, thanks to the support of all our members. Join us in 2011 and help make it an even bigger year for ocean conservation.
On Sunday Oceana and the National Geographic Society, in an unprecedented collaboration with the Chilean Navy, launched a scientific expedition to the waters that surround Chile’s Sala y Gómez Island and Easter Island.
The expedition comes after a preliminary trip by Oceana and National Geographic last March. The results of that initial journey, as you may recall, led the Chilean government to create a no-take marine reserve, Motu Motiro Hiva Marine Park, around Sala y Gómez. At 150,000 square kilometers, the park increases Chile’s protected marine areas from 0.03% to 4.4%.
The scientific results of this expedition will be crucial in monitoring the new marine park, and the scientists will assess the health of the waters surrounding Easter Island to determine the need for new conservation measures. Easter Island’s EEZ includes currently unprotect underwater mountains.
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