SANTIAGO, Chile (March 16, 2018) – The Government of Chile has officially designated Admiralty Sound (Seno Almirantazgo)—a scenic and biologically diverse 80-kilometer-long (49 miles) fjord—Tierra del Fuego’s first marine protected area (MPA), according to WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society).

The Admiralty Sound Multiple Use Marine Protected Area (MUMPA) and four other marine protected areas were created by a presidential decree signed by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet in a ceremony at the governmental palace La Moneda on February 27th. The presidential decree will come into force after a legal revision by Chile’s General Auditor and publication in the government’s official bulletin.

Covering a coastal area 764 square kilometers (294 square miles) in size, the newly created MPA will protect the seascape’s rich marine life—including southern elephant and leopard seals, Magellanic penguins, black-browed albatross, and other charismatic species—while providing local communities with sustainable fisheries and eco-tourism opportunities. In addition to Admiralty Sound, Chile’s other four new MPAs are Juan Fernández Archipelago, Rapa Nui, Tortel, and the Diego Ramírez Islands - Paso Drake.

With the creation of these MPAs, Chile is on its way to achieving its goal of conserving more than 40 percent of the country’s exclusive economic zone. The achievement was accomplished through the work of hundreds of people from the civil society, a number of NGOs, as well as indigenous people from Rapa Nui and fishermen from Juan Fernandez Archipelago.

“Chile does not need to be a superpower country to be a global leader in marine conservation,” said President Bachelet. “The greatest achievement for Chile is that the environment is no longer an issue for environmentalists or idealists. It is now imperative in any discussion about economics, energy, territorial planning, housing, international relations or transportation.”

WCS Chile Director Barbara Saavedra said: “This is the new face of development. As WCS, neighbors of Tierra del Fuego, and as conservation experts, we have been contributing to the construction of this new route for Chile: that of sustainability, based on cooperation and the construction of common good, for the Chile of today and of the future.”

Admiralty Sound is adjacent to Karukinka Natural Park, a mountainous protected area partly managed by WCS Chile that safeguards wildlife, wetlands, and some of the last remaining old-growth forests in the region. WCS Chile has been working for over a decade on Patagonia’s coastal seascapes to develop an integrated marine conservation model that combines both wildlife management and sustainable use of the area’s marine biodiversity.  Admiralty Sound in particular has been the focus of a decade of conservation research involving the efforts of multiple organizations, government agencies, and stakeholders.

The research conducted to highlight the Admiralty Sound and the documents underpinning the creation of the MPA were supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

The protection of Admiralty Sound also marks a milestone for the Magallanes Network of Marine Protected Areas first announced by the Government of Chile in 2015. Based on multiple collaborations, the MPA network will likely expand across the Patagonia region and will help Chile to meet its target of protecting 10 percent of its marine ecosystems by 2020. With the support of the Waitt Foundation, WCS is working to design such network in close cooperation with the Chilean Government and several NGOs, including WWF, Huinay Foundation and CBA-UACH. International efforts to establish MPAs have been generously supported by the Waitt Foundation, which also supported the launch of the WCS MPA Fund to assist countries worldwide in creating new marine protected areas in fulfillment of the United Nations goal to protect 10 percent of the oceans by 2020.