Burdwood Bank in the Patagonian Sea will protect whales, penguins, and rare cold corals

WCS commends Argentina’s government and thanks local partners of the Forum of NGOs for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea

WCS has advocated for open-ocean protected areas in the Patagonian Sea since 2005

NEW YORK (August 1, 2013)—The Wildlife Conservation Society’s President and CEO, Cristián Samper, issued the following statement on the recent declaration by Argentina to designate Burdwood Bank as the country’s first open-ocean protected area.

“The Wildlife Conservation Society commends the government of Argentina, particularly Representatives Luis Basterra and Guillermo Carmona, for a major conservation milestone: the declaration of Burdwood Bank, or Banco Namuncurá, as the country’s first open ocean protected area and one of the first in the southwest Atlantic.

“Burdwood Bank’s submerged plateau covers nearly 11,000-square-miles and is one of the most productive regions of the Patagonian Sea. Its habitat supports hard and soft cold corals found nowhere else on earth. Abundant stocks of southern blue whiting and Fuegian sardine make the region an attractive foraging location for top predators such as albatross, penguins, and marine mammals.

“Burdwood Bank was first proposed as an open-ocean protected area in 2005 and part of WCS’s Sea and Sky Initiative, led by Dr. Claudio Campagna. Subsequent work, including the publication of Patagonian Marine Atlas http://www.atlas-marpatagonico.org/, co-edited by Sea and Sky´s GIS expert Valeria Flabella, and with contributions from a broad suite of local experts, helped provide scientific underpinnings to justify Burdwood Bank’s protection. This, combined with collaboration with Argentine organizations that make up the Forum of NGOs for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea, as well as Argentine scientists and conservationists, including biologists José Orensanz, Guillermo Caille, and Oscar Padin among others, made formal protection of Burdwood Bank a reality.

“Now that Burdwood Bank is a protected area declared by national law, the next step to ensure it will remain a sanctuary for wildlife is to have a management plan, which will require further support from the government and our partners. There is also a need for further exploration of the bank and learn more about its unique diversity.

“Now that Burdwood Bank is protected, there are several other sectors of the Patagonian Sea that are suitable for the creation of open ocean protected areas to help prevent overfishing and oil drilling in areas of special ecological and biological value. The edge of the shallow Patagonian Shelf, near the 200-mile limit of the Argentine Economic Exclusive Zone, for example, has Canyons that could be priority targets. They have to be explored and a rationale built for their protection. Protecting Burdwood Bank is a major step in that direction.

WCS’s involvement in Patagonia dates back to the 1970s and has included research, training, education, and policy development. The WCS initiatives in the area have been funded by the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation, Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation for the Americas, Waitt Foundation, as well as several individual supporters.

STEPHEN SAUTNER: (1-718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org)
JOHN DELANEY: (1-718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org)

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.