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Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea

Joint NGO-initiative to assess the conservation status of the Patagonian Sea

The Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea and Areas of Influence was established in March 2005, in Colonia, Uruguay. Forum Members are national and international conservation organizations (NGOs) working for the conservation of this marine ecosystem. The main goal of this Forum is to join efforts and establish necessary collaborative mechanisms between member institutions, in order to optimize the work that is being conducted in the Patagonian Sea, towards securing an integrated management of this important marine ecosystem.


The Patagonian Sea

The Patagonian Sea is one of the largest and richest marine areas on Earth, comprising more than 2 million km², and extending from southern Brazil (23ºS) to the waters South of the Burwood Bank (55ºS) in Argentina. The high productivity of this area is sustained by the nutrient transport of two major marine currents, the Falklands-Malvinas and the Brazil currents.


The Falklands-Malvinas current derives from the Antarctic Circumpolar current, moves North along the Patagonian continental slope and contains cold (sea surface temperature less than 7ºC in the winter) and low salinity waters. On the other hand, the subtropical Brazil current contains warm (sea surface temperature about 26ºC) and high salinity waters, and moves South along the continental shelf. Both currents meet at about 38ºS in the so-called Confluence Area, which represents one of the richest marine areas in the world.


The high phytoplankton productivity of this area is the basis for its rich marine life. The Patagonian Sea harbours large populations of fish, squid and crustaceans, and sustains important breeding colonies and feeding grounds of seabirds, seals and cetaceans.


Sixteen seabird species (two species of penguins, the Southern giant petrel, five cormorant species, three gull species, two tern species and two skua species) breed along the Patagonian coast and depend on the PLME for feeding. Approximately, 75% of the global population of black-browed albatross live and breed in these waters. More than a million breeding pairs of Magellanic penguins, 72,000 southern sea lions and 60,000 southern elephant seals are home to the PLME. In addition, several seabird and marine mammal species migrate yearly to this area coming from Subantarctic and Antarctic waters. All these species together, constitute one of the greatest marine wildlife spectacles on the globe.


Petrels feed extensively on Antarctic krill, including the Cape Petrel (Daption capense) Photo: © Claudio Suter

The Patagonian Sea sustains one of the largest fisheries on the planet. The most important threats to the conservation of the area are overfishing of target species, bycatch, incidental mortality of seabirds and mammals, and the destruction of benthic habitats (with the associated loss in biodiversity) as a result of bottom trawling. Illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing (IUU) is also threatening important fish and squid species found on the continental shelf and slope off Argentina. In addition, increasing fishing operations in international waters pose a serious threat to local fish and squid populations.


Other threats are related to pollution, especially by run-offs and garbage from coastal cities, and also from fishing operations. Also, oil pollution represents a potential threat to the conservation of the area, as important oil transport takes place along the Patagonian coast from oil platforms and extracting sites on land to the refineries located North on the Buenos Aires coast.


The Forum's joined initiative

Participants to the Colonia meeting - Uruguay (above) and to the Puerto Madryn meeting - at the Ecocentro main entrance (below)

Currently, there is no document based on comprehensive scientific information that provides a diagnosis of the conservation status of this large marine ecosystem. Although, a large amount of data on biodiversity and human use exists for this region, it is disperse among several governmental institutions, NGOs, and researchers working in different places. Unfortunately, networking attempts among these stakeholders are scarce. As a result, there is a lack of a clear and sound message about the conservation of the Patagonian Sea.


The main objective is to come up with a document – agreed by all Forum Members - that reflects the status of conservation of the Patagonian Sea and that can be used by NGOs for reaching key stakeholders in the press media, government and industry. This document should provide sound messages about the most urgent issues regarding the conservation of biodiversity of the Patagonian Sea.


The main idea is to develop a report identifying the most urgent issues for the conservation of biodiversity in this ecosystem, following a “joint-fact finding” process, to be achieved collectively by Forum members with the aid of a technical panel of renowned scientists.


The expected outcome goes much further than delivering a good technical report, as the conservation organizations in the Forum, and specially the national ones, could also benefit from the capacity-building process that will take place during this exercise. With consensus regarding the most relevant messages in marine conservation, civil society organizations will be empowered to install marine biodiversity conservation in the public agenda, through media and opinion leaders.


It would be the first time that all involved organizations will be making a common statement about the conservation status and needs of this marine ecosystem. Needless to say, the strength of the Forum (a-NGO-common-voice) is larger by all means than the strength of each individual organization.


The Status could be used in a large variety of situations and be presented to many constituncies. Especially, it could represent a key document for discussions and negotiations with governmental authorities, in order to call for actions directed to the conservation of the Patagonian Sea and to promote the sustainable use of marine resources.


The preparation of this comprehensive review will include several aspects, such as:

  • Organization of technical workshops: in these meetings, the methodology for data acquisition and processing is discussed, data are integrated, results are discussed, and a report summarizing the results is prepared.
  • Assessment of potential indicators and other relevant questions by a panel of prominent experts: during the last meeting in Mar del Plata, the Forum Working Group on Ecosystem Monitoring made a presentation in regards to potential indicators for the monitoring of the Status of Conservation of the Patagonian Sea. At that meeting it was discussed the need to include the analysis of data availability in order to assess the proposed indicators quantitatively. This particular analysis should be conducted by an ad hoc panel of experts on different disciplines
  • Communication strategy: concomitant to the technical workshops, a communication strategy will be developed specifically for the launching of the Status. This strategy will be based on the results of the Forum Communication Strategy workshop that was recently organized. The main objective of this strategy would be to find the most appropriate way to disseminate/present the Status to different audiences. Also, along the process, especial efforts will be done to incorporate a large variety of stakeholders (including government authorities) as a “buy in” strategy in regard to the Status.
  • Database: the source of information for this document is represented by the existing database of WCS’ Sea and Sky Project. This database is currently being consolidated and completed with data coming from several organizations. The database is managed by technicians working for the CONICET (Consejo de Investigaciones Cientificas y Técnicas; www.conicet.gov.ar), who are also collaborating with the Forum. So far, the database contains approximately 60,000 satellite tracking positions for a dozen of flagship species that are showing us the most important foraging and breeding areas for Patagonian Sea marine species. There are also complete datasets on oceanography and legal aspects.
  • Development of maps for key marine species: during this process, mechanisms will be established (including cooperation agreements when necessary) in order to develop maps (at appropriate spatial and temporal scales) of quantitative habitat use for albatrosses and petrels, penguins, marine mammals (especially seals) and, to the extent that sufficient data are available, of turtles, cetaceans, commercially exploited fish, squid, and other species.
  • Development of maps related to fisheries: mechanisms will be established in order to develop maps of the distribution of fishing effort (i.e. in respect of target species, gear used, etc.) for each type of commercial fishery in the region.
  • Analysis of threats and potential conflict resolutions: the data (maps) acquired for key marine species will be overlapped with the data (maps) resulting from fisheries and other uses of this marine area, in order to analyze current threats. The analysis will also encompass the suggestion of alternative management options and mitigation measures, including the establishment of marine protected areas and the development of new marine management regimes, in order to ensure the sustainable use of marine resources in the Patagonian Sea.
  • Published document “Review of the Status of Conservation of the Patagonian Sea”: a number of 2,000 copies will be produced of a fully illustrated document. Some 150 copies will be distributed for free to key contacts shortly after its publication in 2007.
  • Launching event of the Status: a small launching event will be organized a few weeks after the document is released, in order to present the Status to several opinion leaders and other relevant stakeholders. This event will represent the first of series of communication actions in regards to the Status that will take place during 2008.

Forum Working Groups and the Status of Conservation of the Patagonian Sea

Several of the Forum Working Groups (WGs) will participate actively in the process of preparing and disseminating this document. For example:

  • The WG on Communication will develop plans for communicating the outcomes of the Status to external audiences;
  • The WG on Zoning Strategy will translate into a GIS database any relevant habitat and species data, especially on habitat boundaries; and
  • The WG on Vertebrate Bycatch Reduction in Fisheries: will prepare (and contribute to GIS database) data for mapping, at appropriate temporal and spatial scales, incidental mortality of seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals in relation to all relevant commercial fisheries and fishing methods. Also, this group will prepare advice on appropriate mitigation methods to be applied to areas of identified risk of incidental mortality of seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals for each relevant method of fishing.

In the last Forum plenary meeting in Mar del Plata (July 2006) a new WG was created: the WG on the Status of Conservation of the Patagonian Sea. This new WG is currently responsible for designing and implementing the strategy to elaborate the Status. The creation of this WG shows the importance that this project takes within the Forum.



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Ecocentro Puerto Madryn

Patagonia: Sustainable Development in southern Chile


Project partner:

Website of

Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea



Dr. Rodolfo Werner Kinkelin


Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea and Areas of Influence

Puerto Madryn – Chubut – Argentinien

E-Mail: coordforum(ad)gmail.com


Santiago Krapovickas

Founder of WG on Status of Conservation of the Patagonian Sea

(WCS / „Sea and Sky“-Project)

Puerto Madryn – Chubut – Argentina

E-Mail: sfkrapovickas(ad)gmail.com