The Beacon

Blog Tags: Chile

Last Hope For Chilean Wildlife?

Cormorants

Cormorants in Chilean Patagonia. Oceana/Emily Fisher

Editor Note: This is the last update from Oceana online editor Emily Fisher in Patagonia. She returns to Santiago today. For more photos, visit our Flickr page.

On my last day in Patagonia, I joined a group of about 25 travelers, including Italians, Argentinians, Spaniards, Mexicans and one Brit, on a boat cruise into one of Chile's most picturesque waterways.

The boat took us into the Seno Ultima Esperanza (“Last Hope Sound”), which was so-named because its European discoverers were nearly dead when they finally found it, searching for the western entrance to the Magellan Strait.

But now Ultima Esperanza, which happens to also be the name of this region of Patagonia, has taken on a new significance, as the salmon farming industry is also looking to these clean waters to salvage their business. The industry has submitted requests for hundreds of new salmon farms in the waters of Ultima Esperanza, and as I saw today, these are waters that are rich with wildlife and peeping tourists.


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Going Straight to the Salmon Source

Caleta Delano farm

Salmon farm Caleta Délano. Photo: Oceana/Emily Fisher

Editor's Note: Oceana online editor Emily Fisher is reporting from Chilean Patagonia this week, a beautiful place under threat from polluting salmon aquaculture. She'll be sending updates throughout the week. See more photos on our Flickr page.

I’ve known about the negative impacts of salmon farming in Chile for years, but this morning I finally got a glimpse of the source.

A Puerto Natales local named Fernando, with extensive knowledge of the area’s waters, was kind enough to take me out in his boat. The morning was overcast and chilly, but according to Fernando, it was a great day to go out on the water due to the calm winds, which he said was the biggest problem for excursion operators like him this time of year.

Donning ridiculous orange jumpsuits to protect us from the elements, we hopped in his boat. Within three minutes – no exaggeration – he quieted the motor, pointing to a pod of southern dolphins.  There were at least eight dolphins zooming around our boat, taunting me to capture them with my inadequate camera. When they finally got sick of us, we motored over, a few hundred meters away, to see a non-functioning salmon farm. Its orange buoys bobbed serenely as we sped off, spotting even more dolphins.


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Chilean Salmon Aquaculture 2.0: Déjà Vu?

Chilean Patagonia

The breathtaking view in Patagonia. Photo: Oceana/Emily Fisher

Editor's Note: Oceana's online editor, Emily Fisher, is currently reporting from the wilds of Chilean Patagonia, a beautiful and austere place at risk from salmon aquaculture. She'll be sending reports throughout the week as her internet connection allows!

Patagonia: the very word evokes wilderness, jagged snow-capped peaks and  turquoise glaciers. It is a mecca for adventure-seekers the world around.

But there’s a new foreigner on the way, one that speaks neither Spanish, nor English, French, or German, and is indifferent to its picturesque surroundings: Atlantic salmon.

I’ve just arrived in Chilean Patagonia, where I’m hoping to find out more about the pending reincarnation of the Chilean salmon aquaculture industry. After it was devastated by a bout of Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) in 2007, most of the country’s farms shut down in the country’s Lakes region (Los Lagos), leaving behind a wake of unemployment and pollution.

Now the industry is poised to start over, this time in the turquoise waters of Patagonia, threatening marine ecosystems and wildlife, artisanal fishing and tourism.


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Carnival of the Blue #42: Chilean Edition

Step right up to the Carnival of the Blue #42, where you may or may or may not discover the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Come one, come all!

This month’s Carnival of the Blue is brought to you from the ever-so-coastal country of Chile, where I am currently working out of our Santiago office helping with their website redesign. It’s also a fitting theme because this month was a superb one for Chile’s oceans.

On the heels of our recent victory to save Chile’s Punta de Choros from a coal-fired power plant, this month, Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera announced the creation of Sala y Gómez Marine Park, a no-take marine reserve of 150,000 square kilometers around Sala y Gómez island, and the Chilean government announced a drastic reduction in the fishing quota for jack mackerel and other fisheries, starting in 2011. (Oh yeah, and don’t forget those 33 miners...)

Now let’s have a look at what else happened this month around the world wide wet web of ours:


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Chile Reduces Jack Mackerel Overfishing

A Chilean purse seiner catches jack mackerel. (Image via Wikimedia Commons.)

Our Chilean colleagues are really on a roll lately. Adding to their recent victories in Sala y Gomez and Punta de Choros, last week the Chilean government announced a drastic reduction in the fishing quota for jack mackerel and other fisheries, starting in 2011.

The triumph against overfishing comes after Oceana sent the Minister of Economy a report analyzing the annual quota set for jack mackerel during the past 10 years. The study, put together with data that Oceana obtained through Chile’s Freedom of Information Act, shows that between 2003 and 2010 the National Fisheries Council set the annual quota for jack mackerel at higher catch limits than was recommended by the Institute for Fisheries Development. In fact, in 2009 the quota was 87 percent higher than what was recommended by the agency.

As a result, the Minister of Economy went to a session of the National Fisheries Council to express his frustration, and in an unprecedented event, he asked them to set smaller quotas for next year. 

 Another hard-earned victory for Oceana Chile and the oceans!


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Victory! Chile Creates Marine Reserve Around Sala y Gómez

Sala y Gómez island. © Oceana

We were hoping this day would come, and today, it did!

In a huge victory this morning for Chile’s marine health and our Chilean colleagues, Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera announced the creation of Sala y Gómez Marine Park, a no-take marine reserve of 150,000 square kilometers around Sala y Gómez island.

Sala y Gómez is an uninhabited island that’s part of a biodiverse chain of seamounts that are vulnerable to fishing activity. Dr. Enric Sala, marine ecologist and National Geographic Ocean Fellow, called Sala y Gómez “one of the last undisturbed and relatively pristine places left in the ocean.”

Last March, Oceana, National Geographic and the Waitt Foundation conducted a preliminary scientific expedition to the island and found abundant populations of vulnerable species such as sharks and lobsters, much larger than in the depleted ecosystem in nearby Easter Island, which is not protected from fishing. In addition, the scientists found unexpectedly high biodiversity in deeper waters.


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Photo Slideshow: Punta de Choros

As we told you last Friday, the ecologically rich region of Punta de Choros, Chile, was recently spared from the construction of a coal-fired power plant in a dramatic decision by President Sebastian Piñera.

The announcement was the culmination of hard work by our colleagues in Chile alongside local organizations, and immense grassroots pressure from Chileans.

So what, exactly, was at stake? Humboldt penguins, sea lions and blue whales, to name a few of the creatures that call the area home. But judging from your comments on last week’s post, many of you already know how incredible this place is.

Here is further photographic evidence, enjoy:

 


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Victory In Chile Against Coal-Fired Power Plant

We've been working in Chile to protect its incredible coastline from a proposed coal-fired power plant that would threaten Punta de Choros, home to amazing wildlife including endangered blue whales and Humboldt penguins. In recent days, grassroots opposition to the power plant grew after the power plant received its environmental permit, with peaceful demonstrations that were ultimately dispersed with tear gas and water cannons as well as a massive outpouring of criticism from Chileans online.

So it is with great satisfaction that I report that Chilean President Sebastian Piñera has announced he has persuaded Suez Energy not to build its power plant near Punta de Choros. In addition, he asked his cabinet to review all the industrial projects that produce environmental damage being considered in the country to see whether they could affect protected areas.

This is an incredible victory for Chileans, 94 percent of whom opposed the power plant in a recent poll. Against the odds, we changed a formal government decision, and the amazing marine ecosystem of Punta de Choros will remain protected.

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.


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Victory! Chilean Senate Recommends MPA Around Sala y Gómez Island

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Big news for a pristine patch of ocean off the coast of Chile: Last week the Chilean Senate’s Fisheries Committee unanimously agreed that the Chilean government should establish a 200 nautical mile marine protected area around the Island of Sala y Gómez, near Easter Island.

Oceana and National Geographic have been promoting the protection of this area, which still remains virtually unexplored, and which may well be one of the last pristine vulnerable marine ecosystems in the Pacific.


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The Scanner: On the Bright Side Edition

surfing alpaca

© REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

Happy Friday, ocean fans. It's almost spring, and a surfing alpaca exists in the world. Things are looking up.

Before we get to the week's best marine tidbits, an important announcement: Oceana board member Ted Danson will be answering questions live on CNN.com on April 1, so send your ocean queries in, stat!

Also, don't forget that today is the last day to take the Ocean IQ quiz for a chance to win prizes, including a trip with SEE Turtles.

This week in ocean news,

…Yes, CITES failed to deliver on bluefin tuna yesterday, but as Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Julie Packard pointed out, at least the conversation is changing. Bluefin is now in the same rhetorical realm as endangered land creatures such as tigers and elephants.

…Deep Sea News wrote a requiem for a robot -- the Autonomous Benthic Explorer (ABE) that was lost at sea last week during a research expedition to the Chilean Subduction Zone. On a recent dive, ABE had detected evidence of hydrothermal vents. At the time of its loss, ABE had just begun a second dive to home into a vent site and photograph it.


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