The endless and thrilling Patagonian coast

If Chile has 4,000km of coastline, the Patagonian coastline sums over 87,000km! And it is one of the richest in the world.

Despite its biological importance and wealth, less than 0.05% of the Chilean coast is protected, which makes it one of the biggest challenges for marine conservation in the country.

The Almirantazgo Sound, a narrow strip of Patagonian sea that bathes Karukinka, is a remote area in which rare marine and terrestrial species converge, which are hard to find in other sectors of the Chilean coastline, such as elephant seals, black-browed albatrosses, Rock Cormorants, sea lions, Magellanic penguins, Kelp geese, Magellanic Oystercatchers or leopard seals. This coastal marine ecosystem, in the heart of Tierra del Fuego, is a natural bulwark of enormous biological and economic value, and also worrying fragility.

In 2009, Karukinka started a Marine Conservation Program to create a model for conserving the biodiversity of the Almirantazgo Sound and adjacent waters. Among many other things, as part of this program WCS organizes an annual scientific expedition to the Almirantazgo Sound, ideal to develop and test conservation models with sustainable development, because of its pristine isolation.

These expeditions have allowed registering the extraordinary marine fauna, explore the interior Magellan sea and create a space for integration and cooperation among national and international researchers, with the aim of positioning this territory as a national priority for coastal conservation. Despite its importance and biological richness, less than 0,05 percent of the Chilean coastline is protected, which makes it in one of the biggest challenges for marine conservation in the country.

The results of these scientific cruises have generated a solid starting point for studying the use of marine resources of the Almirantazgo Sound and research on the critical species. For example, genetic, reproductive and behavioral studies are currently being undertaken in the only colony of black-browed albatrosses in the world that nests in inland waters, as well as in the breeding colony of elephant seals off the coast of Karukinka.

WCS intends to integrate the experience and knowledge in conservation that has developed for decades on the Atlantic coast of Patagonia, to project Karukinka as a new private actor that leads marine conservation in Tierra del Fuego.

Download the first results of the scientific expeditions here