Chile May Protect Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems From Fishing

Published on June 5th, 2009 | by

A bill has been introduced into the Chilean National Congress that would protect vulnerable marine ecosystems. According to the United Nations, a vulnerable marine ecosystem is defined as:

An ecosystem that is particularly susceptible to disruption, to damage or even to destruction due to their physical characteristics, the activities and interactions of the organisms therein and the impacts they suffer from human activities and the surrounding environment.

Image by don fulanoChilean bill would protect vulnerable marine systems from trawling
Chilean bill would protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from trawling

Of particular concern in Chile is the long term, negative effects of trawling and other destructive fishing practices.

The bill has broad support in the Chilean government from all political sectors, as well as it includes recommendations from Oceana, the United Nations, and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  Alex Muñoz, executive director of Oceana South America explains:

The Chilean ocean has important vulnerable marine ecosystems that are totally exposed to the serious impacts of bottom trawling. The bill that was introduced to the Congress would ensure effective protection of these important ecosystems by limiting the most destructive fishing methods, just as the UN and FAO have vigorously recommended. We hope that Congress quickly passes the bill since some of these areas already show severe damage from the trawling that is taking place in Chile.

The bill requires the government to identify vulnerable marine ecosystems and close them to destructive fishing practices, such as trawling, if demonstrated scientifically they have a negative impact. The entire Chilean trawling fleet would be required to have scientific observers on board. Last year, the United States closed areas of the Bering Sea to destructive bottom trawling.

Bottom trawling is equivalent to clearcutting the ocean floor. Trawling involves dragging large, heavy nets weighing as much as several tons across the sea floor. Trawling destroys  deep sea coral and sponges that can take centuries to replace.  Trawlers also make it difficult for fisherman using more ecologically responsible methods to survive economically.

Chileans recognize this bill would benefit the country.  From ancient coldwater coral formations to at least 118 underwater seamounts, the country has a diverse marine ecosystem that deserves protection.  Conserving valuable marine ecosystems is crucial for ensuring habitat for future fishing resources.

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