Status: In-depth (updated May 2010)
An in-depth policy analysis regarding Marine Conservation Agreements (MCAs) in Chile was completed by The Nature Conservancy in 2007 (the original report can be download from the Chile Resources box to the right). In addition, a presentation on private marine conservation options in Chile was given as a case study by the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in June 2008 at the workshop, A Private Sector Approach – Conservation Agreements in Support of Marine Protection (presentation materials can be downloaded from the Resources box). The analysis and presentation reveal that several legal tools can be used by private entities to protect ocean and coastal zones in Chile, including marine concessions, Nature Sanctuaries, Marine Coastal Protected Areas, and Management and Exploitation Areas.
The Ocean and Coast Return to top
Chile is a long, narrow 4,200-kilometer strip of land located between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains. Island territories within the Pacific Ocean, such as the Juan Fernández Archipelago and the islands of Sala, Gómez and Pascua (located in Polynesia), are included within Chile’s boundaries. The Chilean seaward jurisdiction is made up of the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone, and the open sea. The territorial sea extends along the entire coast of the country, including the continental and island coasts. The territorial sea is 12 miles wide and begins on the landward side at the low tide line. The exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a strip of sea extending 200 miles seaward from the low tide line of the coast, totaling 2.4 million square kilometers. The open sea is an enormous triangular area that lies between the island of Pascua, the South Pole, and the north of the country. This open sea area is of special interest to Chile for scientific and economic activities that can be developed to benefit the population and the security of the country.
Relevant terms related to Chilean seas:
- Bottom of the Sea, River, or Lake: An extension of the land that begins at the divide between the lowest tide line and the waters in the sea, and from the minimum water line during normal flows within the rivers and lakes.
- Inner Waters: Those waters situated within the base line of the territorial sea.
- Intertidal: The coastal strip at the water-land interface which is subjected to the effects of the tides. It is the zone that extends from the lines of highest tide to the line of the lowest tide.
- Jurisdictional Waters: Waters for which a state ribereño directs certain provinces for specific goals.
- Territorial Waters: A strip of marine water that surrounds the coast of the state ribereño and that receives the name of Territorial Sea.
Marine Resource Management Return to top
The Marine Subsecretary (within the Ministry of National Defense) controls, budgets, and supervises the management of the national coast, the territorial sea, and the navigable rivers and lakes. The Marine Subsecretary also oversees beaches, rocks, and water bottoms of the sea, both within and away from bays, conceded to private entities (by decree of the Ministry) for specific uses. The General Directorate of the Marine Territory and Merchant Navy (DIRECTEMAR) is the agency that specifically manages the marine resources.
DIRECTEMAR’s jurisdictional limits extend a distance of twelve miles (four marine leagues) measured from the line of low tide, including areas between its coasts, the beaches, the roquerios up to the high tide, the lakes under public dominion, and the navigable rivers up to where they are affected by the tides, the dikes, varaderos, the unloading areas, the docks, the wharves, espigones de atraque, and in general, all construction that is confined to the marine, effluvial and lacustrine waters. In the enclosed harbors of manmade ports, the Directorate has jurisdiction only for the maintenance of order, security, and discipline.
Marine Fauna and Aquaculture Management Return to top
The National Fishing Service’s (SERNAPESCA’s) Aquaculture Unit manages marine fauna and aquaculture activities under the General Law of Fishing and Aquaculture. SERNAPESCA implements the rules that govern these activities, both in marine waters and lands, to monitor, analyze, and technically inform the development and promotion of aquaculture activities. Aquaculture includes activities that have as their goal the production of aquatic resources managed by man. This includes the cultivation of aquatic organisms such as fish, mollusks, crustaceans, and aquatic plants. SERNAPESCA is in charge of reviewing and authorizing applications for aquaculture activities. Aquaculture authorizations are the administrative acts through which the Marine Subsecretary allows people to carry out aquaculture activities for an indefinite time, in areas that correspond to the scope of province of the General Directorate of Waters.
SERNAPESCA also analyzes and informs technical projects related to aquaculture concessions and authorizations approved by the Subsecretary of Fishing. Similarly, the Aquaculture Unit analyzes and reports on the effects of aquaculture. Finally, it develops environmental projects, like the application of Environmental Rulings for Aquaculture (RAMA).
Marine and Aquaculture Concessions Return to top
Chile's General Law of Fishing and Aquaculture, Article 67, establishes a concession and authorization system for a diversity of aquaculture and other productive activities in marine and coastal areas, including beaches, water bottoms, and rocks. These concessions are applicable to direct conservation efforts and also afford the possibility of administering some marine protected areas (as discussed below). SERNAPESCA issues concessions to legal private entities to create and administer marine and coastal areas designated for resource conservation and restoration. Authorities can also establish, through agreements or accords, collaborations with private entities to set aside certain coastal areas for conservation projects.
There are several hundred existing concessions for productive purposes in the marine environment, such as extraction of resources, tourism, and commerce. Concessions can generally be transferred from one holder to another. This transfer consists of an administrative act through which the State authorizes the transfer, total or partial, of the rights of the holder of a title of a marine concession to a third party. The third party must be a natural or legal Chilean or foreign person with residence in the country, who desires to obtain marine concessions already awarded to another concession holder.
In 1982, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUCC) obtained a marine concession for scientific purposes in Las Cruces where the Coastal Station of Marine Investigations was established. The goal for the project was to study human impacts on marine ecosystems. Similar approaches were followed by other Chilean universities (Universidad Austral in Mehuin, Universidad de Valparaíso in Montemar, Universidad Católica de la Santisima Concepción in Lenga, and Universidad Católica del Norte in Herradura) and private companies (Minera Escondida in northern Chile and Endesa in Huinay, southern Chile). In the case of Las Cruces, full protection of the area was achieved since the scientific studies required human exclusion. Given the long lasting status of this marine concession as a no-take area, the new status of Marine and Coastal Protected Area (MCPA) was added in 2005. Las Cruces is now part of the national system of marine protected areas of Chile. Based on the experience of Las Cruces, PUCC is exploring the possibility of establishing additional marine protected areas in central Chile through private initiatives, sponsored by local or national authorities. PUCC's focus on central Chile is based on the availability of supporting biological data and the urgent need to protect coastal zones in the most populated region of Chile. PUCC's role in all cases is to provide scientific advice, help prepare the documents to apply for the protected area, and advocate for approval.
Marine concessions can overlap with and be used to administer Nature Sanctuaries, Marine and Coastal Protected Areas, and Management and Exploitation Areas.
Nature Sanctuaries Return to top
The Law of National Monuments contains rules for the creation of Nature Sanctuaries, which can include marine areas that offer possibilities for geological, paleontological, zoological, botanical, or ecological studies or investigations, or that possess natural formations which are of interest to science or for the State to conserve. Nature Sanctuaries are approved by the National Council of Natural Monuments, which confers all enforcement and administration responsibilities to the organizations (or groups of organizations) that propose the creation of the sanctuaries. There are 12 existing Nature Sanctuaries that protect coastal (intertidal) zones. In most cases the Nature Sanctuaries were established to protect specific flag species (marine vertebrates). All existing Nature Sanctuaries were created upon the request of private organizations or local governments (municipalities).
PUCC established contact with two local fisher organizations after receiving information of their interest to protect a fraction of the coast. At Navidad, the Universidad intends to establish a Nature Sanctuary, sponsored by the local government (Municipalidad) and local fishers (Sindicato La Boca). Navidad is one of the top ten poorest counties of Chile. The region heavily depends on the exploitation of macroalgae and there is increasing pressure from abalone aquaculture. The Universidad has been working for over two years to develop the biological information necessary to apply for a Nature Sanctuary designation. All local agencies involved in the evaluation process are willing to approve the proposal to establish a Nature Sanctuary in the zone. The area contains a kelp forest, a typical habitat in the region, but also an important local resource. When established, the sanctuary will be the first to include subtidal zones and the first to protect biodiversity associated with kelp forests. The Navidad project brings together the local government and fishers who will be responsible for the enforcement and administration of the area and are committed to report regularly the progresses made to the National Council of Natural Monuments.
Marine and Coastal Protected Areas Return to top
Marine and Coastal Protected Areas (MCPAs) constitute a national initiative that is implemented through the project Conservation of the Biodiversity of Global Importance along the length of the Chilean Coast and is backed by the Government of Chile and the Fund for the Global Environment and is coordinated by the National Commission of the Environment (CONAMA). MCPAs are geographically defined zones designated for the protection, administration, maintenance and restoration of the natural and cultural resources of marine and coastal waters. MCPAs can include the water column, rocks, beaches, associated flora and fauna, and historical and cultural resources. Thus MCPAs can be used nationwide to conserve biodiversity, protect endangered marine species, reduce conflicting uses, generate requests for science and education, and develop commercial and recreational activities. Another objective of MCPAs is to conserve the historical and cultural marine and coastal wealth of the local communities through sustainable development of tourism, fishing, and recreation. There are two clear difference between MCPAs and Nature Sanctuaries: 1) MCPAs protect local marine biodiversity, while Nature Sanctuaries mostly target single species; and 2) MCPAs can protect areas that are very small or quite large, while Nature Sanctuaries usually protect small areas. The threats, however, affecting MCPAs and Nature Sanctuaries (aquaculture and exploitation of marine resources) are common to both and are the main persistent threats along the entire coast.
As mentioned, the size of MCPAs can range from very small (Eastern Island, Las Cruces, and Huinay) to extremely large (> 30 km of coastline). Four MCPAs have been created by the Navy, in most cases driven by a proposal submitted by CONAMA, and sponsored by other national agencies dealing with coastal zones. It is important to note, however, that only one of the four existing MCPAs includes a no-take zone. The rest of the MCPAs are open to multiple uses, including fishing and aquaculture. Two MCPAs were established by private organizations (Las Cruces and Huinay). In the case of Huinay, only intertidal zones are protected. In Las Cruces, 10 hectares are protected in the intertidal and subtidal zones, which includes in a no-take area and a buffer area. MCPAs are administered by the agency or organization that requested the protection of the area, which is responsible to produce reports on the area (biodiversity and education) to the national government. The cost of producing such reports, and the information supporting them, is paid by the private entities involved.
MCPAs are created by Marine Subsecretary (of the Ministry of Defense) Decrees and can be administrated by private groups in conjunction with the authorities, or by private groups on their own. To become accredited by the administration for administrating an MCPA, interested private groups must present a project and financing to CONAMA. CONAMA analyzes the presentation and suggests the creation of MCPA to the Ministry of Defense. The Marine Subsecretary then decrees the creation of the MCPA. Private entities administer MCPAs through concessions authorized by the Marine Subsecretary.
Several examples (such as Las Cruces mentioned above) exist in Chile of MCPAs being administered by non-profit entities. The San Ignazio de Huinay Foundation, a nonprofit organization, administers a coastal zone with the goal of conservation in the Xa region. The San Ignazio de Huinay Foundation has undertaken research and conservation activities through the creation of an MCPA. The foundation was created by the PUCC and the Endesa Chile S.A. Company.
Management and Exploitation Areas Return to top
Management and Exploitation Areas (MEAs) are implemented through marine concessions. MEAs are partially protected areas administered by local fishers who pay the implementation costs of the MEA, including enforcement, but benefit from exclusive use rights to resources in the areas. Although MEAs are established for exploitation purposes, recent studies showed that if properly administered, MEAs can help achieve marine biodiversity conservation goals as species abundance and size were comparable to no-take zones. If the proper incentives are created, MEAs can contribute to the national network of marine protected areas assuring connectivity among areas. The success of this management strategy is reflected in more than 500 exclusive use MEAs that were established in the last 15 years, interspersed with free access fishing grounds that have been devastated by over-fishing.
Preliminary results of research show that the abundance of highly valued species such as loco (Concholepas concholepas), limpets (Fissurella spp.), crabs, sea urchins (Loxechinus albus), and macroalgae is higher in MEAs than in open fishing grounds. Moreover, MEAs often also exhibit higher biodiversity than open-access neighboring coastal areas. The preliminary results highlight the potential (but unexplored) stewardship value that MEAs may have for coastal ecosystems and the potential to integrate two traditionally antagonistic activities, exploitation and conservation, in preserving ecosystem services. Furthermore, MEAs offer the potential to combine public and private approaches to marine conservation in a national network of fully and partially protected areas.
At Isla Juan Fernández (a region with one of the highest levels of endemism in the world), the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile is working in association with the local fishers union to establish (via an MEA) a no-take zone and an exclusive fishing-right area around the no-take zone. The major threat to local endemic species at Isla Juan Fernández is the increased fishing efforts by industrial fleets which are moving toward the island after depleting other regions. Local fishers are very concerned since fishing effort of artisanal fisheries in Juan Fernández Island has proved to be sustainable.
Other Options: Marine Reserves and Coastal Parks Return to top
The General Law of Fishing contains the rules for the creation of parks and marine reserves that are under the protection and administration of SERNAPESCA. These marine reserves are designed to preserve ecological units of interest to science and to set aside areas that ensure the maintenance and diversity of aquatic species. Coastal parks are the responsibility of the National Forest Association which administers more than 20 parks, reserves, and natural monuments located in coastal zones throughout Chile and its island territories like Pascua and Juan Fernandez islands. Parks are established by Decree.
Protective Designation Process Return to top
The processes to obtain a marine concession or establish any of the above-mentioned MPAs (such as a Nature Sanctuary or a Management and Exploitation Area) are different because the applications are submitted to different agencies. However, the processes always involve consultation with several local and national agencies and a proposal. Proposals need to identify a clear enforcement plan and compile biological information emphasizing the main reasons to establish a marine protected area. Biological information can be based on the compilation of existing literature, local surveys, or both. This biological information is critical to convince the different agencies to support the project based on the habitats, hot spots of biodiversity, presence of flag species, or unique ecosystem processes. To receive official support, the project needs to be approved not only by the agency that deals with each specific conservation tool, but also by other agencies (e.g., Local Coastal Committee, the Fisheries Administration, and CONAMA, among others).
Specific activities required for each protection tool and site need to be developed on a case-by-case basis. For instance, the proposal can be entirely developed by local communities or organizations which may have the capacity to develop scientific research, outreach activities and the necessary lobbying, or may involve more entities if some of these capacities are not present locally. The costs of developing biological and oceanographic information, and outreach activities are major detractors of private initiatives.
Outreach activities are critical at all stages of the protection designation process, including before, during and after the protected area has been established. However, the maintenance of a novel and long term outreach program is critical for the long term success of the area. Funding to support these private approaches to marine conservation in Chile is a major constraint. There is no doubt, however, that the major challenge with most of the protection options is enforcement because of the cost and the legal mechanisms needed. Although local organizations can develop plans to prevent poaching and can have the personnel to constantly monitor the area, only the Navy can undertake the actual enforcement. This is a major and costly problem especially in isolated areas.