The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) commended local Chilean officials for keeping salmon farms from the fragile coastal waters of Tierra del Fuego Province due to environmental concerns. The officials also reduced salmon farming in nearby Antarctica and Magellanes Provinces along the Patagonian coast.
WCS has been working on marine conservation and coastal zone planning in Tierra del Fuego since 2009 and continues to provide technical and scientific information to government officials. The area is rich in spectacular concentrations of wildlife â€" from albatross and penguin colonies to marine mammal breeding areas.
Chile is the world's second largest producer of farmed salmon. Salmon farms have exploded over the last two decades in central Chile and can cause pollution from waste, introduce diseases, displace native fish, and impact artisanal fisheries.
"Chile has taken the right step in protecting invaluable coastal resources off Tierra del Fuego and nearby areas," said Dr. BĂˇrbara Saavedra, Director of WCS's Chilean Program. "These regions are home to rich concentrations of wildlife whose needs are only beginning to be understood. Marine biodiversity is a key for the development of local economies, such as ecotourism and artisanal fisheries."
WCS conservationists conducting an expedition with local partners in Admiralty Sound in Tierra del Fuego last year encountered albatrosses, sei whales, elephant seals, rockhopper and king penguins, and the only known breeding colony of leopard seals outside of Antarctica.
Nearby areas remain at risk from salmon farming in Ultima Esperanza Province. WCS is working with partner organizations to assess alternative salmon farming techniques and to understand the socio-economic impact of salmon farming to the region's burgeoning ecotourism industry. In addition WCS and its partners are developing tools to improve protection of the Patagonian coast and identify future protected areas.
Since 2004, WCS has owned and managed Karukinka Natural Park, the largest protected area of the main island of Tierra del Fuego, an area totaling 728,960 acres and 50 km (31 miles) of coastline in Admiralty Sound. Karukinka protects the world's southernmost stands of old growth forests as well as unique grasslands, rivers, and wetlands containing extraordinary wildlife.
Karukinka has been transformed into a flagship for conservation in Patagonia, addressing national conservation issues including invasive species management, peatland protection, and now marine conservation. WCS works in partnership with several public and private agencies and is supported by an advisory board made up of local scientific and business sector representatives who provide recommendations on the park's development.
The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes toward nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit: www.wcs.org