The Bounty of the Patagonian Sea

Patagonia Sea Argentina Photo
Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

The Patagonian Sea’s fertile expanse is both a haven for wildlife and a magnet for the fishing industry. Commercial fishing boats reap the bounty of the nutrient-rich Falklands-Malvinas and Brazil ocean currents. The area’s abundant hake, anchovies, shrimp, and squid are a major commodity, traded and consumed in international markets. They also sustain colonies of threatened seabirds and marine mammals. The community of top predators and migratory species that feed and breed in this vast area come from as far as Antarctica, South Georgia Island, and New Zealand.

Challenges

Many of the area’s fishing boats are bottom trawlers, which drag large, heavy nets across the seabed. Bottom trawling can destroy underwater ecosystems that serve as both spawning grounds and ecological storehouses. It takes a heavy toll on corals and sponges, and the nets inadvertently entangle and kill many marine mammal, fish, and bird species as bycatch. Longline fisheries are another common method of fishing in the area, and another common source of entanglement. In addition to these threats, the commercial fishing boats compete with wildlife for food. This has proven particularly disastrous for the endangered black-browed albatross. Finally, oil spills and pollution from boats plagues the region’s wildlife, particularly the penguins.

Goals

  • Develop an ecotourism industry along the Patagonian coastline—a sustainable livelihood alternative to commercial fishing, and a viable means of conservation.
  • Raise public awareness as to the value of the ocean, and its preservation.
  • Improve ecosystem management by both industry and government, and increase enforcement of fishing quotas under Argentina’s Federal Fishing Law.

What WCS is Doing

WCS began studying, training, and helping to influence conservation policy in Argentina in the 1970s. Our Sea and Sky Initiative promotes sustainable management of the Patagonian Large Marine Ecosystem and identifies priority areas. One such site is the Burdwood Bank, a 694-square-mile, coral-rich area off Argentina’s southern coast. This marine region serves as vital feeding grounds for whales, albatrosses, penguins, and sea lions and as breeding grounds for southern blue whiting and Fuegian sardines—important fishery species. In September 2008, the government of Argentina banned all commercial fishing activities in this critical area.

From the Newsroom

Chile Reels in Salmon FarmingAugust 24, 2011

WCS applauds Chile’s efforts to protect Patagonia’s waters from the salmon industry. But there are many other fish farms in its seas.

Penguins Dine Free in ArgentinaOctober 22, 2008

Argentina bans commercial fishing in Burdwood Bank, a key marine wildlife area in the Patagonian ecosystem that is home to albatross, penguins, whales, and seals, among other species.

A New Use for Traffic ConesDecember 20, 2007

Inventor Diego González Zevallos, with funding from WCS, has created a simple warning system for birds at sea that draws inspiration from the rules of the road.

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