From: , Oceana, More from this Affiliate
Published May 6, 2009 10:33 AM

Chile Introduces Bill to Protect Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems

Santiago, Chile -- With broad support from government and opposition leaders, a bill was introduced this morning to the Chilean National Congress intended to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from trawling and other destructive fishing practices that have long-term negative impacts.

The bill is sponsored by Senators Antonio Horvath, Guido Girardi, José Antonio Gómez, Carlos Bianchi and Baldo Prokurica. The proposal includes recommendations from international organizations such as the United Nations and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), who have called on countries to adopt effective measures to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems in their jurisdictional waters.

"The Chilean ocean has important vulnerable marine ecosystems that are totally exposed to the serious impacts of bottom trawling. The bill that was introduced to the Congress would ensure effective protection of these important ecosystems by limiting the most destructive fishing methods, just as the UN and FAO have vigorously recommended. We hope that Congress quickly passes the bill since some of these areas already show severe damage from the trawling that is taking place in Chile," said Alex Muñoz, executive director of Oceana South America office.

If the bill to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems passes, the responsible government agency would be required to identify these ecosystems in order to later close them from destructive fishing activities. Bottom trawling would be prohibited in areas where seamounts exist until it can be demonstrated scientifically that fishing doesn't negatively affect them. The bill would require that 100% of the trawler fleet has scientific observers on board to collect information about the presence of vulnerable marine ecosystems. It would also allow universities, members of the artisanal and industrial fishing sectors, and civil society organizations to present evidence about the existence of these ecosystems and propose their study, identification and protection.


Chile's exclusive economic zone is home to various vulnerable marine ecosystems, including at least 118 underwater seamounts and diverse ancient coldwater coral formations. Examples include the underwater seamounts of the Juan Fernández Islands and Nazca Ridge; Salas and Gómez Islands and Easter Island. In these areas more than 40% of some groups of species are endemics -- the highest level for underwater seamounts in the world. These same places contain cold water corals that form banks or reefs as complex and long-lived as their tropical relatives.

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