“Canoeros”, the documentary by NatGeo digging in the waters of Kawésqar, Yagán and Selk’nam


The premiere of the documentary took place with a full house Canoeists: living memory, by National Geographic and its Pristine Seas program. The event held at the GAM center was attended by numerous members of the Kawésqar, Yagán and Selk’nam populations, who had come especially from the Magallanes Region to be present for the occasion.

Prior to the documentary screening, indigenous communities took to the stage to demand from the Chilean government that the current Kawésqar National Reserve, located in the designated region of Magallanes, be declared a National Park, banning activities such as salmon farming, which today is permitted within this Protected Area.

“We have an explicit request, that the Kawésqar National Reserve be reclassified as a National Park. The sea and the land are one. Help us make it possible for the memory of our ancestors,” said a representative of the Kawésqar Communities for Sea Defense.

The documentary Canoeists: living memory shows, through spectacular images, the unprecedented expedition that National Geographic Pristine Seas made with members of the Kawésqar and Yagán peoples to the Kawésqar National Reserve. The work will then be exhibited by the channel National Geographic.

In January 2019, Chile established the Kawésqar National Park in the land part, but the maritime portion, consisting of canals and fjords of high ecological value, was excluded. With this, the sea is left without effective protection, as the National Reserves in Chile admit mining activities. Despite being a Protected Area, Kawésqar National Reserve currently has 67 salmon farming concessions already granted and another 80 pending.

“It is totally contradictory that salmon farming is authorized in a National Reserve intended to protect a unique ecosystem, which is one of the most environmentally destructive economic activities known in Chile. We hope that the call of the original peoples will be accepted by the government and, therefore, save a place of enormous ecological and cultural importance,” said Alex Muñoz Wilson, National Geographic Pristine Seas director for Latin America.

In July of this year, the communities of Kawésqar formally asked the government of President Gabriel Boric that these waters be declared a National Park without salmon farms.

top priority area

A National Geographic Pristine Seas science publication describes the Kawésqar National Reserve area as a top priority area for conservation, due to its high degree of endemism, pristine fjords, glaciers, temperate rainforests, oceanic habitats, and the field of ice largest outside the polar regions.

The main short-term threats to this ecosystem are salmon farming and climate change. The study also highlights how diverse the existing habitats are, from sheltered waters fed by extensive glacial systems to more exposed areas of the Pacific Ocean.

Among the most serious impacts of salmon farming documented in Chilean Patagonia are the massive use of antibiotics and pesticides, the destruction of the seabed and the deaths of whales, dolphins and sea lions in their breeding centers, as well as the escapes of huge salmon, which are invasive and carnivorous species.

The Kawésqar Communities for Defense of the Sea are made up of Ata’p, Aswal Lajep, Renchi Navarino Family Group, Residents of Río Primero, Inés Caro and Sea Nomad Family Groups.

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