The Government of Argentina has created two massive offshore marine parks in the southwest Atlantic that will help protect the diverse marine life of the Patagonian Sea, according to WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) and a host of other partners who have worked for years to protect these biodiverse seascapes.

The two marine parks—Yaganes and Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank II—were officially created by the Argentine Congress, first with a unanimous vote in favor from House of Representatives on December 5th and then with today’s vote from the Senate.

Yaganes and Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank II now protect habitat and critical feeding grounds for penguins, sea lions, fur seals, sharks and rays, cold-water corals, mollusks, sponges, and many other marine species found nowhere else on earth.

Both are located in a zone of transition between temperate and sub-Antarctic waters. Cold-water currents meeting the submerged banks rising up from deeper waters create highly productive marine environments that, in turn, support enormous biodiversity. The new marine parks cover a combined area of approximately 85,000 square kilometers (more than 32,000 square miles).  

The creation of the two marine parks also expands the total surface area of Argentina’s protected ocean from 2.6 to 8 percent of their sea, bringing the country closer to achieving its international commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and the “Aichi Targets” under the Convention on Biological Diversity. The targets recommend that countries work to safeguard 10 percent of their marine and coastal areas by 2020.

Argentina’s new marine parks are a significant step toward the preservation of the ocean and the diversity of ocean-dependent species in the Patagonian Sea,” said WCS Marine Scientist Dr. Claudio Campagna, Director of WCS’s Patagonian Sea and Sky Project and President of the Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea (“the Forum,” a consortium of regional NGOs created in 2004). “These parks will permit marine wildlife to pursue their life cycles undisturbed.”

WCS’s Patagonian Sea and Sky Project was launched in 2004 as an initiative that advocated a previously daring concept: marine conservation through the protection of large, ecologically important swaths of marine habitat in open-ocean parks. Over time, the project has garnered support through the Forum and the Argentine Government, particularly the National Parks Agency, the Secretary of the Environment and Sustainable Development, and the Ministry of Science, with its program called Pampa Azul. Working together with researchers in Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas – CONICET), WCS helped to create the concept and gather the needed baseline data for the creation of Argentina’s new marine parks. Previous successes include the creation of the country’s first Marine Protected Area—Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank I—in 2013. The work has also been supported by WCS’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) Fund, launched in 2016, with a goal to establish new protections for more than one million square kilometers of unprotected ocean by 2020.

Technical support from WCS and other organizations has been a key factor in helping to build support for turning Yaganes and Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank II into marine parks. WCS worked in collaboration with the Forum in a two-year project to advance the goal of creating these new open ocean MPAs.

“The creation of these parks is the result of years of passion and hard work by many people and partners with a common objective: to conserve the ocean environments,” said Carina Righi, Director of WCS’s Argentina Program. “WCS thanks our supporters and members of Congress for their efforts and vision to protect the wonders of the Patagonian sea.”

WCS has worked to protect the wildlife and wild lands of coastal Patagonia since the 1970s, beginning with long-running studies on southern right whales, Magellanic penguins, elephant seals, and sea lions. WCS-led research on coastal marine species has been conducted in tandem with efforts to promote a growing tourism industry that creates awareness and appreciation of these spectacular wildlife gatherings.

Additional information on these momentous declarations can be found on the Forum’s website:

WCS’s work to help establish these marine parks was generously supported by: the Waitt Foundation; the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation; the Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation for the Americas; Oceans 5; and a grant under the WCS MPA Fund.