Ocean health consultation in Patagonia reveals people, industries and salmon farms causing the greatest damage


What is a healthy ocean? Who harms the health of the sea? These are some of the questions answered in person by more than 1,500 respondents in the regions of Los Lagos, Aysén and Magallanes, as part of the first citizen consultation on ocean health, an initiative that in its online format collected the opinions of 1,246 people.

On this occasion, the Center for Dynamic Research in High Latitude Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL) of the Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh) and the Millennium Institute for Coastal Socio-Ecology (SECOS), announced the results of the face-to-face survey carried out exclusively to the inhabitants of Chilean Patagonia.

The results showed that for most of the respondents the sea represents life, peace, tranquillity, work and food. People are associated as the main culprits in harming ocean health, at 38.4%; then companies or industries with 23.5%; and salmon farms in third place with 19.9% ​​of the answers.

This consultation, in addition to reflecting on how those who live in the coastal territories of Patagonia perceive the health of the sea, will contribute to the construction of the Ocean Health Index (OHI), the first stage of which will be in this territory.

“Globally, this index makes it possible to monitor the condition of the oceans and monitor the actions that nations take to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” explained Laura Nahuelhual, coordinator of the initiative and researcher at the IDEAL Center and the DRY Institute of the Millennium.

The results of the survey will make it possible to know the perception of the state of health of 33 of the 36 coastal municipalities of southern Patagonia in Chile, the factors that influence it and the ability of each to improve its own indicator through management and planning interventions.

Ocean health in Patagonia

Some of the results obtained in the face-to-face citizen consultation indicate that for 64.4% of respondents in Patagonia, a healthy sea is one that has great biodiversity, living beings in their natural state and which is in balance with life. On the other hand, 55.3% associate a damaged ocean with pollution and waste, mainly plastics.

Gonzalo Campos, engineer in Renewable Natural Resources at the IDEAL Center, in charge of analyzing the survey data, commented that “according to the interviewees, the main culprits for damage to the health of the sea in Patagonia are the people themselves and its sources of contamination direct as waste, while the salmon industry is the only one to be singled out as responsible for the deterioration of the sea”.

71.8% of the answers indicate that the main actions carried out to improve the health of the sea in Patagonia are the cleaning of the beaches and the collection of waste; only 4.6% say that there are controls, monitoring and regulations that better regulate the issue. Furthermore, 3.9% perceive that education, awareness raising, interviews, workshops and/or campaigns are taking place; 2.2% indicated that there would be a need to improve processes, infrastructure and equipment.

As regards the goods that the ocean offers, 83.2% of people answered that they strongly agree that the sea and its coasts offer opportunities for tourism and recreation, while 82.66% strongly agree that this resource generates a sense of local identity and, thirdly, that it helps livelihoods and coastal economies (79.91%).

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