‘Save the seas’: Greenpeace aims to save Chilean marine life with global campaign

Peale's dolphins (Lagenorhynchus australis) on Aysen coast, Chile. Evelyn Pfeiffer / Greenpeace

By Mohsin Abbas / The Santiago Times Staff

SANTIAGO, Chile — Greenpeace has launched a global campaign for protecting the ecosystems of Chilean Patagonian seas.

“Chile is home to 36% of the world’s marine mammal biodiversity, which is why protecting its seas is key and of great relevance to all the planet. From today, our partners and sympathizers around the world become watchmen of the seas at the end of the world,” said Estefanía González, Greenpeace Chile Oceans Campaign Coordinator.

“Save the seas at the end of the world” seeks to prevent salmon farming companies – especially Japan’s Mitsubishi – from expanding their operations to Magellan, endangering not only one of the most beautiful natural scenery in the world, but also the habitat of a unique species: the Chilean dolphin.

The campaign’s launch was followed by an activity that took part in different lighthouses across Chile, through almost 4,000 kilometers, to claim for the protection of the ecosystems of the country’s southern seas.

Yesterday’s main activity took place in La Serena lighthouse, almost 500 kilometers north of Santiago and one of the country’s most visited beaches, where a hot air balloon flew over the city’s lighthouse, surprising thousands of tourists who read a message calling the protection of the seas at the end of the world.

Fishermen at work in Magellan Strait Park, XII Region, Chile. Cristobal Olivares / Greenpeace

This international campaign seeks the protection of the Patagonian seas in the extreme south of Chile, home of a diverse ecosystem, with unique natural landscapes such as the internationally recognized National Park Paine Towers. It is also an area that serves as habitat for several types of whales, and especially the Chilean dolphin.

Chilean dolphin is iconic: an endemic species that is being affected by the presence of antibiotics highly and massively used for Chilean salmon farming. A threat that can increase significantly since its habitat is precisely where the salmon companies want to settle.

But not only the Chilean dolphin is in danger. Magellan is also the home of other species, such as whales (blue, minke, austral frank, sei and orca), dolphins, penguins, sea lions and various birds. They live an area where National Parks and Reserves are located. These parks are frequently visited by locals and foreigners, making this area one of the most visited in the country.

“What is in risk is the protection of the purest waters of the planet. It is not possible that the interests of the salmon companies are placed above an environmental heritage that belongs not only to Chile, but to the world. It is not just the ecosystem, the Magellan seas also have a unique relationship with indigenous peoples, such as Kawésqar and Selk’nam, as well as fishing communities that depend on the good health of their sea,” says Matías Asun, Greenpeace Chile National Director.

Greenpeace warns that the seas at the end of the world are seriously threatened by the expansion of the salmon industry, which has already shown the devastating power it can have in ecosystems after what happened last year in Chiloe, located in the south of Chile. The dumping of almost 5,000 tons of rotten fish off its coast triggered the red tide crisis that generated one of the most serious social and environmental disasters in recent history.

For that reason, Greenpeace denounces the expansion that several salmon companies intend to make in the Patagonia. One, in particular, Cermaq – a Norwegian company that belongs to the Japanese giant Mitsubishi Group that is the second largest exporter of Chilean salmon, with an annual output of 41,556 tonnes.

Chile is the second largest salmon exporter in the world and supplies countries like the United States, Japan and Brazil.

Anticipating the expansion and the imminent danger, almost 100% of the applications submitted by the company, if approved, would be in National Reserve areas.