Isla Pingüino and Makenke Coastal Marine Park provide habitat for seabirds and marine mammals
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Dolphins, penguins, seabirds and sea lions along the coast of Patagonia will get more protection in a pair of new marine protected areas designated by Argentina this week.
Both areas were identified as priority conservation sites under the collaborative Patagonia Coastal Zone Management Plan project, covering an area where Charles Darwin traveled, and where Ferdinand Magellan executed and marooned a group of mutineers intent on aborting what would become the world’s first circumnavigation of the globe.
Darwin first described the wildlife of Isla Pingüino in 1833, during his seminal voyage aboard the HMS Beagle — now, the Isla Pingüino Coastal Marine Park will protect about 720 square miles, including habitat for large populations of South American sea lions, red-legged cormorants, and one of the largest colonies of imperial cormorants found anywhere (with more than 8,000 breeding pairs). Isla Pingüino also boasts one of the only colonies of rockhopper penguins on the coast of Patagonia.
Farther south, the Makenke Coastal Marine Park begins at the entrance of the Ría San Julián, covering almost 230 square miles of shore and ocean. The park contains the largest colony of rare red-legged cormorants in the country. It also protects breeding colonies of the dolphin gull, a rare scavenger, and pods of the small but spectacular black and white Commerson’s dolphin.
“We commend the Government of Argentina for their conservation stewardship in creating this new network of marine protected areas,” said Dr. Cristián Samper, president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “Isla Pingüino and Makenke Coastal Marine Parks now protect vital wildlife populations for posterity and create new opportunities for Argentina’s ecotourism industry.”
“Isla Pingüino and Makenke Coastal Marine Parks continue a tradition of conservation teamwork, with organizations such as WCS providing support to the government in protecting both coastal breeding areas for mammals and birds and the marine habitats they rely upon,” said Dr. Caleb McClennen, director of WCS’s Marine Program.
Isla Pingüino and Makenke Coastal Marine Parks were made possible as a result of work conducted by Dr. Patricia Gandini, President of the National Parks Service, and Dr. Esteban Frere of the Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia Austral. Both biologists began studying the wildlife of the coast of Santa Cruz with support of WCS in 1985.
WCS research on penguins led to conservation efforts that helped reduce the number of penguin deaths due to oil spills at sea from more than 40,000 a year to fewer than 1,000 annually, and helped move shipping lanes 30 miles offshore to avoid spills affecting seabird colonies.
During the past 40 years WCS has helped Argentina transition from harvesting of coastal wildlife to a burgeoning tourism industry based on its spectacular coastal species. These two new parks are the latest addition to the country’s extraordinary marine conservation effort.
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment Tagged: | Argentina, Charles Darwin, HMS Beagle, Isla Pingüino, Makenke Coastal Marine Park, marine protected areas, Patagonia, Wildlife Conservation Society