Marine conservation organization Oceana celebrated the announcement of a Coastal Marine Protected Area for Multiple Purposes at Caleta Tortel commune, located in the southern area of Chile’s Aysen region. This conservation development materialized after ten years of joint work between Oceana, the community, the Municipality of Tortel, the Environment Regional Secretariat of Aysen and ministers of the Council for Sustainability, all of whom, after a national dialogue process, agreed to move forward with the protection of this iconic body of water in Patagonia.
“This is excellent news for all the people in Tortel who worked together to provide definitive protection for our environment”, said Bernardo López, mayor of Caleta Tortel. “As a marine protected area we will be able to move forward with sustainable economic activities such as tourism and artisanal fishing and protect the unique ecosystem of our fjords”, he added.
The proposal put together by the community of Caleta Tortel was scientifically endorsed by Oceana, after conducting five expeditions that were able to determine the biological richness of this area, which harbors a significant number of invertebrates and endemic species such as the Chilean dolphin, as well as sponges and corals that play a very important role in ecosystems and are vulnerable to any type of pollution. Oceana identified 53 conservation targets among species and habitats.
“Meltwater, river water and sea water combine at Caleta Tortel, creating a unique and special marine environment in this area of Patagonia”, said Liesbeth van der Meer, Executive Director of Oceana Chile. “It’s been ten years of scientific work that have finally resulted in the creation of a marine protected area, fulfilling the community’s longing, and we are very proud to have contributed to this effort”, she added.
The new protected area will encompass 6,702 square kilometers, divided into an ocean area in the Golfo de Penas, and another inland area covering the channels that surround Caleta Tortel.
“In order to achieve this, joint work was conducted by the municipality, Oceana, and most importantly, the community. We organized information workshops involving long sessions for debate and conversation which finally yielded results with the creation of this new marine protected area for our region”, said Susana Figueroa, Environment Regional Secretariat for Aysen.
It was only two years ago that the fjords at Caleta Tortel were being threatened by the imminent installation of salmon fish farms; however, these projects were terminated in order to preserve the location’s environment. Caleta Tortel is a characteristic area of Chilean Patagonia, which is renowned at the national and international level for its respectful coexistence with the environment. There are no streets; all the houses are connected by wooden walkways, a characteristic that has made it become one of the most important tourist areas in Chile’s southern territory, driving sustainable economic activities.