Chile Creates Whale Sanctuary

Good news about the marine environment seems to be an increasingly rare occurrence these days. However, there was only celebration in Chile yesterday after a Government announcement declaring Chilean waters a Whale Sanctuary. After a long, passionate pursuit and drawn out political process, the people of Chile, the host of this year’s (IWC) International Whaling Commission meeting, finally have their highly prized whale sanctuary. The sanctuary is a result of sustained public pressure and the remarkable and dedicated efforts of the three organizations behind the “Chile 2008, A Whale Sanctuary” campaign - Centro de Concervacion Cetacea (CCC), Centro Ecoceanus and the National Federation of Artisan Fishers of Chile (CONAPACH).

The civil support for this project was evident in a national survey conducted by CCC that indicated 99% of the public is in favor of protecting cetacean species in their national waters. Meanwhile, its importance was demonstrated by a unanimous 53 to 0 vote in favor of the sanctuary by the Chamber of Deputies.

The organizations involved in the campaign are delighted with the result, and see it as a victory not only for cetaceans in Latin America, but a positive step toward a new and positive relationship with the marine environment.

The following is a press release from Centro de Concervacion Cetacea (CCC) in Santiago -

Chile 2008, A Whale Sanctuary A campaign of CONAPACH, CCC and Ecoceanos

11/09/08 Centro de Conservación Cetacea, Ecoceanos and the Artisan Fishers of Chile Celebrate the Definite Approval of a National Whale Sanctuary by the Chilean Congress

Valparaiso, Chile. September 11, 2008 (CCC/Ecoceanos News) - Centro de Conservación Cetacea (CCC), Centro Ecoceanos and the National Federation of Artisan Fishers of Chile (CONAPACH), celebrated today the definite and unanimous approval of the project of Law that declares Chilean jurisdictional waters a Whale Sanctuary.

Now, the project of Law will return to the Executive branch to be announced as a Law of the Republic in the next few weeks. The final approval of the project will also allow Chile to attend the intersesional meeting of the International Whaling Commission next week in LA Florida (USA) with a strong message of conservation and non-lethal use of cetaceans.

CCC, Ecoceanos and CONAPACH, who are the organizations behind the campaign “Chile 2008, A Whale Sanctuary”, participated in all the legislative process and thanked the support of the legislators, particularly senators Nelson Avila and Juan Pablo Letelier for supporting the will of the Chilean people regarding cetacean conservation.

For Barbara Galletti, president of CCC, this instance “is a great progress for the country and we are extremely happy by the consensus obtained in support of the Law, including the national and international community, the legislative and executive branch and the Chilean Navy. We are certain that this is the most important marine conservation legacy achieved for future generations and the foundation to construct new agreements oriented to the protection of the marine biodiversity.” Referring to an action alert made last Thursday to collect signatures in support of the sanctuary and that were handed to the President of the Chamber of Senators yesterday, Galletti added that “we would like to thank the thousands of people that responded to our final call to have the project approved, their signatures were fundamental to have a Whale Sanctuary in Chile today.”

Juan Carlos Cardenas, executive director of Centro Ecoceanos, stated “this is the first historical landmark of the 21st century in marine environmental conservation in Chile and demonstrates that the informed participation of the civil society can achieve changes towards a new relation with nature, which is what the majority of the people wants.”

Cosme Caracciolo, secretary of CONAPACH, affirmed “this is the response of the political world to the position and demands of the civil society. With the national survey conducted by CCC to Adminark-GfK last April, it became clear that 99% of the Chilean people demand the protection of cetacean species. This is a project of the Chilean people and the Chilean organizations to defend life. We are extremely happy since this Law will help us as a country to protect the marine biodiversity. It is our duty and obligation to do so.”

The Session in the Senate

Yesterday, during the debate senators Antonio Horvath and Juan Pablo Letelier highlighted that the project of Law incorporated important matters such as conservation measures oriented to avoid vessel collisions with whales in Chilean jurisdictional waters.

Senator Horvath, who did all the necessary arrangements to comply with the dates committed by the Chamber of Senators last week, sustained that the project incorporated several indications to make it stronger. Senator Juan Pablo Letelier affirmed “the initiative presented by the Executive branch was improved and will allow us to make an act of sovereignty over our maritime territory.” He added “it has been a historical inflection where we say no to those nations that challenge international agreements related to the whale conservation.”

The senator specially highlighted the role of the civil society and the non-governmental organizations, particularly CCC and Ecoceanos, in generating awareness regarding cetacean conservation, non-lethal research and the need to create whale sanctuaries. Additionally he thanked president Michelle Bachelet for taking the demands of the civil society and sending the project of law to the congress.

The Session in the Chamber of Deputies

This morning deputies Guido Girardi, Pablo Galilea and Fernando Meza highlighted the importance of this project for the country. By 53 votes in favor and no votes or abstentions against, the sanctuary of whales was approved by unanimity.

The Minister of the Environment, Ana Lya Uriarte, who attended both sessions, highlighted the consensus achieved by the Law and the work conducted by the civil society organizations that were present in the session, CCC and CONAPACH.

Minister Uriarte qualified the approval of the project “as an emblematic agreement between the executive and legislative branches. In the project prepared by the executive branch, several indications made by parliamentarians were included with the aim of granting effective protection to the cetacean species that navigate Chilean jurisdictional waters. The project reflects the overwhelming and extraordinary support of our people as it was shown by the survey conducted by CCC/Adikmark. This is an example for the protection of our environment in a very special day for our country.”

Fuente: Centro de Conservación Cetacea, Centro Ecoceanos For details contact: Elsa Cabrera, executive director, CCC.