Exploring Oceana's Expeditions in Chile's Humboldt Archipelago | Oceana
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January 4, 2024

Exploring Oceana’s Expeditions in Chile’s Humboldt Archipelago

A researcher explores the Humboldt Archipelago during Oceana's first scientific expedition to the area in 2009. ©Oceana | Eduardo Sorensen


In August 2023, Chile’s Council of Ministers for Sustainability approved a new protected area in the iconic Humboldt Archipelago. This unique area is home to around 80% of the world’s Humboldt penguin population. It is rich in biodiversity and numerous endemic species.

Prior to this achievement, numerous scientific studies confirmed the need to protect this biodiversity hot spot. The cold Humboldt Current nourishes the country’s waters, increasing biological productivity.

Artisanal fishers and locals from the area, who rely on the Archipelago to support their livelihoods, have been fighting for over a decade to protect it – especially from the threat of looming mining projects. In addition to supporting our artisanal fishing allies, Oceana has conducted five scientific expeditions to the Humboldt Archipelago since 2009. These expeditions have helped further the understanding of the area and bolster support for the creation of this new Multiple Use Coastal Marine Protected Area (“AMCP-MU” in Spanish).

Top findings from Oceana’s expeditions to the Archipelago include:

  • The Humboldt Archipelago is a hotspot of marine biodiversity and biological production.
  • Abundant species in habitat-forming kelp forests include the Chilean abalone, sea urchins, sponges, crabs, red and yellow prawns, and rockfish such as pejeperro and viejas, which are overexploited in other areas.
  • The Humboldt Archipelago is a feeding zone for birds and marine mammals thanks to the abundance of plankton and the enormous schools of krill detected several miles offshore.
  • The area is home to numerous species such as marine otters, dolphins, and seabirds like the Peruvian diving petrel and the Peruvian booby.
  • The first record of corals in this part of Chile (northern/south central) where the Humboldt Archipelago is located.
  • Deep waters around Pájaros islets serve as spawning ground for yellow shrimp and nylon shrimp, both of which are important fisheries for the region.
  • An oxygen minimum zone that extends up to 200 meters deep southwest of the town of Punta de Choros. The few species that live under these extreme, low-oxygen conditions include shrimp and some marine worms.