The breeding area of the Humboldt penguins off the northern Chilean coast is a “hope spot” for life on earth. But as in the past, port and mining projects are once again threatening the vulnerable penguins.
Chilean environmentalists are calling for the birds’ habitat to be placed under strict protection.
80% of the world’s endangered Humboldt penguin population lives here.
Humboldt Archipelago in northern Chile – protection decided, but NOT implemented
The marine area off the Chilean coast is incredibly biodiverse because of the cold upwelling waters of the Humboldt current. In the north of the country lies the Humboldt Archipelago, which the Mission Blue Foundation has declared a “Hope Spot” – a place of hope for life on the planet.
The unique and irreplaceable ecosystem is considered a priority for global conservation by international science. The special importance results from the unusual oceanic conditions of a continuous upwelling in the sea, which distinguishes this region from other areas of the country.
Cold water rises to the surface there, carrying nutrients that promote the growth and development of large quantities of plankton and phytoplankton.
The topography, consisting of numerous islands and islets, favors the life of larvae and the stages of their development.
The prevailing south-north currents and winds cause the larvae to disperse.
Larvae are also transported here from areas further south and retained because of the unique marine conditions.
Life on a small scale in the Humboldt Archipelago.
The result is a habitat for some 25 species of seabirds, nine of which are endemic, marine mammals such as the endangered sea otter (Lontra felina), the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and eleven whale species. 80 percent of the world population of the Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti), which is classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), also lives here.
The marine region is also one of the most productive in the country in terms of fisheries, with many bottom-dwelling marine animals. The areas are used and maintained by artisanal fishermen and divers.
Danger from mining and port projects
The Dominga mining and port project was rejected by the Coquimbo regional government and the Council of Ministers but was recently approved in a questionable vote by the current regional government.
The Cruz Grande port of the Compañía Minera del Pacífico S.A. (CMP) mining company was already approved in 2015. CMP did not begin construction of the port facility within five years, and the permit has since lapsed.
However, the environmental authorities refuse to confirm the expiration of the permit.
In August 2021, articles on the website Voceríal virtual and other Chilean media revealed that the Dominga mining project appears to be a major fraud.
Geologist Mario Rojo Lara says: “The Dominga mine is pure speculation. It is not genuine mining.”
The environmental protection organization Oceana applied in 2010 to place the Humboldt Archipelago under extensive protection to preserve endangered species and to maintain the wealth of the sea for local communities and visitors.
The coastal inhabitants include indigenous Chango peoples, whose livelihoods depend on the sea.
It is high time to issue the required decree to establish the “Humboldt Archipelago protection zone with multiple uses (Área Protegida Marina Costera de Usos Múltiples)” with an area of 3,423 square kilometers and 294 kilometers of coastline.
In doing so, Chile would be working toward its January 2021 pledge to place 30 percent of its marine and terrestrial area under protection by 2030.
Our demand: realization and sustainable design of the protection zone.
For more than 20 years, authorities, fisheries, local environmental organizations, scientists and NGOs have been working to protect this area.
More than 357,000 people around the world supported the past Rainforest Rescue petition to protect the Humboldt penguins and the archipelago.
The “Humboldt Archipelago protection zone with multiple uses” (AMCP-MU) can prevent this unique ecosystem from being irreversibly damaged by economic activities that are incompatible with the protection of biodiversity and sustainable fishing.
Sunset over the Humboldt Archipelago Hope Spot, cause for Hope.
And I mean…the Humboldt Archipelago is a natural laboratory; it is home to large kelp forests that act as a nursery for many species of fish and benthic invertebrates.
Scientists around the world have recognized that there is no place like this on the planet.
For this reason, scientists, activists and residents of the coast reject the Dominga mining project in the Coquimbo region.
With an investment of 2.5 billion dollars, it plans to exploit an iron and copper deposit in the open pit.
Doing a mining project there, even the best mining project that can be designed, is the equivalent of putting a disco in a maternity ward.
Tanker traffic would pose a high risk of whale strikes and high levels of noise pollution known to negatively impact marine mammals, fish and invertebrate species.
The megaport project will have terrible consequences for artisan fishing communities, which are already suffering because of industrial overfishing.
Toxic discharge into the water from tanker engines and port activities, both intended and unintended, would impact marine flora and fauna and likely reduce bio-productivity.
Eco-tourism operations and local artisan fishing efforts would be negatively impacted by the degraded marine environment and reduce incomes.
Local communities oppose the development and are openly questioning why existing ports nearby are not used, instead of creating a new development in the middle of an ocean ecosystem that is globally significant.
The resccue of the Humboldt Archipelago is important for the fish, kelp, corals and other sea creatures that call it home. But it is also important for humans because a healthy, functioning ocean is what makes life on Earth possible.
No blue, no green.
My best regards to all, Venus