Members of the artisanal fishers’ union of Maitencillo. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rodrigo Sánchez Grez/Fundación Capital Azul.

Environment Chile9. March 2023

Fishermen Take It into Their Own Hands to Protect the Ocean

Chilean fishermen have decided to voluntarily establish marine protected areas (MPAs) themselves, to help make a difference in the country’s – and the world’s – fight against climate change and its devastating effects on biodiversity.

“It’s a solution that comes from the communities, not from a desk in Santiago or an office in Valparaíso. Here, the community made the decision, they said let’s take care of this for ourselves, for our children and our grandchildren,” explains marine biologist Daniela Díaz. This way, “it creates a sense of belonging: I love my territory, I take care of my territory.”

Being one of Chile’s most populous, the region of Valparaíso is where artisanal fishermen from five communities joined forces to establish marine refuges, agreeing not to harvest their resources there. It all started six years ago when the artisanal fishers’ union of Maitencillo chose to protect 15 hectares of the ocean along the coast as part of its Management and Exploitation of Benthic Resources – zones of the sea managed under a model that assigns exclusive harvesting rights to artisanal fishers’ organizations. Since then, four communities – Ballenas, Zapallar, Cachagua, and Ventanas – have joined the initiative. 40% of Chile’s maritime territory is protected in one way or another, all mainly far from the coast. Along the mainland, less than 1% is protected, despite being the most populated portion of the Latin American country. In MPAs, since there is less pressure from fishing, populations of species are healthier in terms of biomass, diversity, and reproductive capacity, and are as a result more resistant to adverse effects, including those caused by climate change.


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