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Chile to Create Patagonia Marine Protected Area Network

Sustainability Politics +2 more

CHILE - The Government of Chile has announced its plan to design a network of Marine Protected Areas for the purpose of safeguarding Patagonia's whales, dolphins, sea lions, sea birds and other coastal biodiversity, an initiative that would expand the country's protected waters by 100,000 square kilometers (more than 38,000 square miles).

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With a 3-year funding commitment from the Waitt Foundation, the new MPA network will enable Chile to meet its target of protecting 10 percent of relevant ecosystems by 2020, a goal in keeping with the Aichi Targets.

"A pending task of this Ministry is the protection of coastal ecosystems, where there is effective competition for its use," said Pablo Badenier, Minister of Environment.

"This is why the collaboration and the road we expect to follow with WCS with the support of the Waitt Foundation is so valuable. The conservation of the Patagonian fjords deserves to have a better understanding and a better valuation."

The new MPA network will protect an eco-region of southern Chile that is home to many marine species, including the blue whale, humpback whale, and southern right whale.

Other marine mammals include the Chilean dolphin, Peale's dolphin, Commerson's dolphin, southern sea lions, South American fur seals, southern elephant seals, and leopard seals. Bird species that inhabit this region include the black-browed albatross, the grey-headed albatross, and Magellanic penguins. This region also supports important industries including fisheries, aquaculture, and tourism.

"The creation of a new Marine Protected Area network will complement an existing series of terrestrial protected areas, both of which will help conserve the amazing biodiversity of Chile's coastal waters as well as protect the one of the world's most extensive regions of fjords, channels, islands, and peninsulas," said Dr Barbara Saavedra, Director of WCS's Chile Program.

Chile is currently setting the groundwork for the new MPA network through the establishment of a new law that will empower the Ministry of Environment to design, create, and monitor the new network. The law will also create a new agency--the Biodiversity and Protected Area's Service--that will guide and oversee the effective management of marine protected areas.