During the 4th International Congress on Protected Marine Areas, IMPAC4, held at La Serena, the Intendent of the Coquimbo Region, Claudio Ibáñez highlighted the importance of protecting the ecosystem of La Higuera, an area where port mining project Dominga and Cruz Grande port aim to be installed.
Ibáñez was one of the lecturers at the event “La Higuera: a biodiversity hotspot threatened by the industry”, organized by Oceana Chile with the participation of Conaf in Coquimbo and a renowned local leader.
“We need to protect this area now more than ever. It is one of the world’s 15 biodiversity hotspots”, said Ibáñez. “What happened in 2010 cannot repeat itself, when a thermal power plant project was turned down but then authorities forgot about the community”, he added.
Ocena Chile stated that the scientific and technical arguments to create a Marine and Coastal Multi-purpose Protected Area already exist. “We’ve conducted a number of expeditions in the area, in addition to all the work that has been done by university researchers. The creation of a marine protected area is a yearning that we’ve worked towards for a long time”, said Liesbeth van der Meer, Executive Director of Oceana Chile. She added that it’s not possible to drive a protection initiative without the full participation of all communities of La Higuera in the process.
Paula Martínez, Head of the Wildlife Protected Areas Department of Conaf in the Coquimbo Region, highlighted not only the ecological importance of the area where the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve is located, but also its socioeconomic contribution. “This zone possesses the region’s most abundant fisheries, because of the unique characteristics of this ecosystem, which has allowed many of its coastal residents to live off its resources”, said Martínez.
Rosa Rojas, President of the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve’s Advisory Council presented the local point of view, recalling the importance of social cohesion when the community of La Higuera was able to stop the construction of the Barrancones coal power plant in 2010. “Just like in those years, this time a project such as Dominga, who everyone thought would be approved, was rejected thanks to empowered social organizations that worked together”, she said.
It should be noted that port mining project Dominga was first rejected by the Environmental Assessment Commission of the Coquimbo Region, and more recently by the Ministerial Committee, while the Cruz Grande port is currently at a standstill due to a cassation appeal submitted by Oceana to the Supreme Court.