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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Groundbreaking news out of Chile, and it's not about the earthquake.
As a direct result of Oceana’s campaign work to reform the Chilean salmon aquaculture industry, this week the Chilean Congress passed legislation to prevent the escape of farmed salmon and further regulate the use of antibiotics in salmon aquaculture.
The reform criminalizes farmed salmon escapes and imposes hefty fines as well as prison sentences for violators. It also bans the preventive use of antibiotics, and requires companies to make public the amounts and types of antibiotics they use, in addition to their specific prescribed use. Oceana has been working since 2008 to convince Chile to restrict the use of antibiotics in salmon farming.
Today marks the global launch of a short documentary exposé from the Pure Salmon Campaign about the damaging effects of salmon farms worldwide. “Farmed Salmon Exposed: The Global Reach of the Norwegian Salmon Farming Industry” reveals the environmental, socioeconomic and cultural effects of salmon aquaculture. The film includes appearances by Alex Muñoz and Dr. Matthias Gorny from Oceana in Chile, and Oceana board member Dr. Daniel Pauly.
Watch the film below and pass it on to your friends and family.
In a blow to the salmon aquaculture industry, on Tuesday Target announced it will stop selling farmed salmon in favor of more environmentally sustainable wild-caught salmon in its fresh, frozen and smoked seafood sections.
With its announcement, Target -- the second largest retailer in the country behind Wal-Mart -- raises the profile of the slew of problems associated with farming one of the most popular seafood species.
In case you need a refresher on why farmed salmon is so deleterious to the environment and potentially public health, check out this post I wrote back in 2008.
In the U.S. Oceana is working to protect wild Pacific salmon, and in Chile, we are working to reduce the use of antibiotics in the industry, reduce salmon escapes and establish a marine protected area in Patagonia to defend its pristine ecosystems from the industry's southern push.
Excuse my tardiness, but this week (Oct 20-25) is the Global Week of Action for the Pure Salmon Campaign, with which Oceana Chile is a partner.