Studying Life Underwater

While taking samples underwater, our team had an unexpected visitor. A curious sea-lion swam next to them doing pirouettes for the camera!


15/11/2013. As part of our efforts to protect the marine wildlife and recover the productivity of the coast that borders The Nature Conservancy’s Valdivian Coastal Reserve in southern Chile, we dived into the depths of the Pacific Ocean to gather key data for our Marine Conservation Project.

The Chilean coast is home to a grand variety of marine species from penguins and pelicans, to sea-lions and marine otters. It also hosts the Humboldt Current, one of the world’s most productive marine natural areas.

The coast between Río Chaihuín and Río Bueno (see map) adjacent to the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, is dotted with productive sea spots specially assigned by the Chilean Government to artisanal fishing associations so that their members can extract and commercialize marine resources under certain controls. These areas are known in Chile as AMERB, or Chilean Territorial Use Rights for Fisheries better known as TURF’S.

Overfishing and inadequate fishing practices have decreased the productivity of many of these AMERB zones. In the worst cases, we are seeing that some species in the areas are now endangered. In order to stop– and hopefully reverse- this trend, The Nature Conservancy is leading a scientific research program that will gather scientific data on the marine wildlife in these areas off the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, and establish a monitoring program in order to help recover the seabed’s productivity.

We have already carried out two in-depth field studies where we monitored three AMERB/TURF areas managed by one of the Conservancy’s key local partners the Chaihuín Fishing Association off the Reserve coastline. These three areas include a no-take zone the Conservancy helped the Association to create. This will allow us to measure how the marine habitats and its wildlife develop when extraction of marine resources is put on hold.

These monitoring activities were carried out in November 2012 and April 2013 with the support of the Chaihuin Fishing Association and local university Universidad Austral. Using a submarine camera the team, made up of specialists from the university and divers from the Association, delved into the depths of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve coast and took pictures of the sea and river beds that constitute the areas under study.

Our divers took samples and photographs of the amazing marine life that inhabits the zone. The data gathered on a variety of marine plants and other resources, including mollusks, sea urchins and the loco (Chilean abalone), will be used to create a registry of the main marine resources in the area.

¿What’s Next?

The information and samples gathered are now being analyzed in the Universidad Austral labs. We will be comparing the data on marine species from the no-take zone with those from the other areas monitored.

Chile’s fishing agency is providing The Nature Conservancy with information on marine resources from samples taken in these zones over the past decade. The information gathered by this official entity in the past includes only marine resources that are being extracted by the fishing sector. The Nature Conservancy is including samples of other marine wildlife in order to understand what is happening to all the seabed community. The local fishing community has described the disappearance of some key species from the marine food chain. In conjunction with key local partners, The Nature Conservancy is gathering the scientific data to explore these claims, in order to begin to develop solutions to promote sustainable fishing and a healthier way of life for nature and people.

Take a look at the amazing wildlife our team captured on camera while taking samples, in this Photo Gallery!


Photo by Nick Hall


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