A network of Marine Protected Areas in Patagonia

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By Bárbara Saavedra
Editors Note: The following is from Issue 15.
The Patagonian sea, one of the most pristine and ecologically valuable fjord ecosystems on the planet, is not without threats.  Its marvelous green-blue landscape abruptly meets coasts, mountains, and southern forests and is home to thousands of species, all of them facing perils associated with invasive species and unsustainable activities.
The good news is that now there is an unprecedented opportunity to conserve and sustainably utilize these landscapes and resources for the sustenance and wellbeing of many.  This is possible through the creation of a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) of Patagonia, which is being developed with a strategic long-term vision and an emphasis on effective conservation management.  It is part of an inclusive, collaborative, and participatory process led by the Ministry of the Environment in which diverse stakeholders from the public and private sectors participate, and the area’s creation is based on the best available science, the integration of sustainable management tools, and on capacity development.
The Chilean government committed to protecting 10% of its most important marine ecosystems as a participating nation in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).  As a result, there have been large protected marine areas created over the last decade, primarily around oceanic islands.  But the low representation of other marine ecosystems, together with a lack of effective implementation, is still problematic.  For example, in the Magallanes region more than 50% of land area is protected, but less than 1% of its coast has formal protection.
Having hosted and led the international Our Ocean conference in 2015, and preparing again to receive hundreds of marine conservation experts from all over the world at IMPAC 4, Chile is positioned as a significant actor on these issues at the global level. It’s a good time to deepen and further effective conservation efforts in the spectacular coastal and marine areas of our country, especially along Patagonia’s coasts. 
How? Through the use of Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation (OS), an integrated approach to management of conservation that, beyond the administrative, allows to make a strategic design, scientifically based and verifiable in the management of conservation in situ. Internationally validated, this approach created and promoted by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) with other organizations, is the standard that the Chilean state is adopting for its protected areas.
We hope to put to the test, in the great natural laboratory that is the southernmost ocean, a design for the creation of a marine protection area network that is sustained through collaborative work and quality science, the creation of technical capacities, and the development of financial, administrative, and regulatory instruments, to make conservation a reality in the southern seas, from Chiloé to Cape Horn.
Specifically, with the support from the Magallanes regional government and after more than a decade of dedicated work researching and educating about conservation in Tierra del Fuego, WCS Chile proposes the creation of a Multiple Uses Marine and Coastal Protected Area (MUMPA) Seno Almirantazgo, a magnificent fjord that spans the coasts of De Agostini and Yendegaia national park and also Karukinka Park in Tierra del Fuego. We are also working on the design of a management plan for Francisco Coloane Marine Park based on open standards. We have the support of the Waitt Foundation, OCEANS5 and Packard Foundation, for the design and development of this network and the generation of capacities for the effective management of protected areas and the sustainable use of their resources.
We seek to protect its species, habitats, ecosystems, and natural and scenic conditions associated with cultural value, including the traditional and economic use of its resources, based on marine-terrestrial and public-private integration that connects with the wellbeing of the local community.  In this way, we hope to help shape a network of marine protected areas and biodiversity conservation capacity that will carry these coasts and their benefits into the 22nd century.  The opportunities are there.  Will we take advantage of them?
The author, Barbara Saavedra, is director of Wildlife Conservation Society Chile

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