Location

Southern Chile’s Chiloense Ecoregion, boasts globally unique geographic conditions, exceptional biodiversity including the world’s largest animal, the blue whale. The proposed Whale Heritage Site is a high productivity area, with a unique cultural heritage represented by the traditional lifestyles of Chilean indigenous peoples and fishing communities.

This ecoregion lies between Latitudes 41-47S and Longitudes 73-75W. It receives direct influence from the Pacific Ocean and the Cape Horn Current from the West and is characterized by a complex system of inner seas, archipelagos, channels and fjords. The area has been suggested to behave as a massive estuarine system that receives continental fresh water though the supply of mixed-regime river discharge and by the highest pluviosity in Chile (6,000 mm/y).

Species

A total of 31 marine mammal species have been reported to occur in the Chiloense Ecoregion (from a total of ca.51 recorded in Chile), making it a hotspot for marine mammal diversity in Chile. Among these species are Blue Whales, Humpback Whales, Sei Whales, Chilean Dolphins, Peale’s Dolphins and Burmeister’s Porpoise.

Problems

Since the Corcovado Gulf is a main navigational route between the inner seas of the region and the Pacific Ocean (mainly serving Puerto Montt, Quellon, Chaiten, Melinka, Raul Marin Balmaceda and Puerto Aysen), the Chiloe-Corcovado area presents an elevated level of ship traffic, which has risen considerably during the last decade as a result of increased cargo shipping, tour boating, public transportation, aquaculture and fishing.

The main threats due to shipping traffic are collisions with animals including cetaceans, noise pollution, and accidents (especially oil spills). Human waste, garbage and debris from local villages, ports, fishing and aquaculture activities are also becoming an environmental problem. A great amount of marine debris has been collected since the advent of conservation programs in the area. Items such as plastic bags, ropes and net pieces are of concern, especially for marine mammals and birds that may die from entanglement or by ingesting them. Tourism in the area is in its early stages of development. The area lacks basic infrastructure to draw and accommodate large numbers of tourists and provide long-term sustainability.

Lead Applicant: