Patagonia's coastal wildlife receive a protective boost by Argentine government

04/08/04

NEW YORK (APRIL 8, 2004) --Three-ton elephant seals, boisterous southern sea lions, and some of the world's largest penguin colonies recently received a protective boost, when the government of Argentina signed a comprehensive plan to safeguard its 2,000-mile coastal zone from harmful development activities, including overfishing and unregulated tourism.

The agreement marks a significant milestone in sealing political commitment to the Patagonia Coastal Zone Management Plan, which was spearheaded by the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Fundación Patagonia Natural, an Argentine conservation group.

The plan's objective is to bring together Argentina's coastal provinces to better coordinate protection for their amazing concentrations of wildlife, often seen in spectacular breeding colonies along Patagonia's rugged coastline. Two species of penguin breed here, including a concentration of Magellanic penguins at Punta Tombo that numbers in the hundreds of thousands, and the largest known colony of rockhopper penguins, numbering some 200,000, in Tierra del Fuego.

The plan also calls for improved technical assistance among the coastal provinces, while also laying the foundation for establishing new protected areas, and strengthening existing ones.

Conservationists are concerned that renewed pressure from the fishing industry on recovering stocks of hake, in addition to shrimp, squid and Patagonian toothfish, better known as Chilean sea bass, will impact penguins and other species that depend on these resources to feed themselves and their young. "We commend our partners in moving forward with the Coastal Zone Management Plan," said WCS scientist Dr. Graham Harris, who helped author the plan. "With good science and planning, the needs of Patagonia's people and wildlife can be balanced so that both can prosper."

Implementation of the plan has been funded by the United Nations Development Program and Global Environment Facility, which approved a grant of $5.2 million to assist the provinces in implementing the plan over the next five years.

WCS has maintained a long-term presence in Patagonia beginning in the early 1960s, with studies of penguins, elephant seals, right whales and other wildlife leading to the creation of several protected areas along the coast.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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