Take a dive and witness one of the most remote but ecologically diverse habitats in the world: the seamounts off of Chile. Seamounts are underwater mountain ranges where nutrient-rich water from the depths comes up to the surface and fuels an explosion of colorful marine life. In these coral gardens fish and other animals concentrate to feed and breed before colonizing other areas of the ocean. The above video, put together by our office in Santiago captures this wealth of beauty and diversity and outlines its threats.
Thanks to the relentless campaigning of Oceana the protections discussed in this video came to pass last month as the Chilean senate voted to close all 118 of its seamounts to bottom trawling as a precaution and radically overhaul the country's fisheries regulations. Oceana supporter Ted Danson and Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless discussed these landmark changes in a recent Huffington Post article:
In the course of a year Chile has gone from a country in which the fishing industry makes its own rules, plowing unseen wonders to oblivion and driving species to the brink, to one in which the interests of the ecosystem come first. Ironically, when this approach is embraced it usually works to the advantage of fishing fleets, ending the boom and bust cycle of overfishing and actually increasing the yields of their fisheries.
Learn more about the great work our team in South America is doing.
As you enjoy those last holiday cookies before the New Year comes with its resolutions, we’d love to share one final present for you to enjoy: we are thrilled to announce that last week, the country of Chile became the first in the world to protect all of its seamounts from the devastating effects of bottom trawling! Oceana CEO Andrew Sharpless and actor and Oceana board member Ted Danson collaborated in an article published by the Huffington Post to share this excellent news with the world.
Seamounts are underwater mountain ranges that are home to an unbelievable array of sea creatures fed by the nutrient-rich water from the deep upwells. The destructive practice of bottom trawling, where large, heavy nets weighing as much as several tons each effectively clear-cut everything living on the seafloor, causes more direct and avoidable damage to the ocean floor and its creatures than any other human activity in the world. Although some of Chile’s seamounts have already been damaged or destroyed by the country’s fishing fleet, the December 20 decision closes any further trawling to Chile’s 118 seamounts until scientists have assessed these and other underwater ecosystems off the coast of Chile.
After the Chilean senate voted last month to ban bottom trawling on all 118 of its seamounts, after years of advocacy by Oceana, we thought it was an appropriate time to remind our supporters just what we've been fighting to protect.
Above is video shot by Oceana in 2011 off of the uninhabited Alexander Selkirk Island in the remote Juan Fernandez Island chain 400 miles off of Chile. The island, named for an 18th century shipwreck survivor who likely inspired Robinson Crusoe, is part of a volcanic archipelago surrounded by seamounts, or underwater mountain ranges that support a staggering variety of marine life.
Until now the Juan Fernandez archipelago was open to bottom trawling, an extremely destructive method of fishing which reduces the sort of complex habitat seen in this video to the appearance of "ploughed fields" according to a recent study in the journal Nature.
Oceana, along with our partners at National Geographic, have made a number of visits to the area in recent years to document this previously unseen abundance of life, and was instrumental in Chile's recent vote to close these wonders to the ravages of bottom trawling.
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.