National Geographic Society Newsroom Press Releases

Chilean Government called on to ban salmon farms in the Kawesqar National Reserve during the premiere of a National Geographic documentary

Santiago, December 4.  The premiere of the documentary "Canoeros: Memoria Viva", by National Geographic’s Pristine Seas program, took place to a full house. The event held at the GAM Center was attended by numerous members of the Kawésqar, Yagán and Selk’nam peoples who traveled especially from the Magallanes region to be present at the event.

Santiago, December 4.  The premiere of the documentary “Canoeros: Memoria Viva”, by National Geographic’s Pristine Seas program, took place to a full house. The event held at the GAM Center was attended by numerous members of the Kawésqar, Yagán and Selk’nam peoples who traveled especially from the Magallanes region to be present at the event.

Prior to the screening of the documentary, members of communities belonging to the Kawésqar people took the stage to demand that the Chilean government declare the current Kawésqar national reserve, located in the Magallanes region, a national park, prohibiting activities such as salmon farming that are currently permitted within this protected area.

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

The documentary “Canoeros: Memoria Viva” shows through spectacular images the unprecedented expedition that National Geographic Pristine Seas carried out with members of the Kawésqar and Yagán peoples in the Kawésqar National Reserve.  The documentary will later be aired on the National Geographic Channel.

In January 2019, Chile created the Kawésqar National Park in the terrestrial areas, but the maritime portion composed of canals and fjords of high ecological value was excluded. With this, the sea was left without effective protection since national reserves in Chile admit extractive activities. Despite being a protected area, the Kawésqar National Reserve currently has 67 salmon farming concessions already granted and another 80 concessions in process. 

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

In July of this year the Kawésqar communities formally requested the government of Chilean President Gabriel Boric that these waters be declared a national park without salmon farms.

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

The main near-term threats to this ecosystem are salmon farming and climate change. The study also highlights how diverse the existing habitats are, from protected waters fed by extensive glacier systems to the most 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 death of whales, dolphins and sea lions in their farms and the massive escapes of salmon, which are an invasive and carnivorous species.

The Kawésqar Communities for the Defense of the Sea are composed of the communities Ata’p, Aswal lajep, Renchi Navarino Family Group, Residents in Rio Primero, Inés Caro, and Nómades del Mar Family Groups.

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ABOUT PRISTINE SEAS

National Geographic Pristine Seas is an exploration, research and media project founded and led by National Geographic Explorer in Residence Enric Sala. The Pristine Seas team is comprised of determined scientists, policy experts and filmmakers who work to inspire the creation of protected areas where marine life can thrive—while ensuring effective management for years to come. Pristine Seas has helped to inspire the creation of 25 marine reserves, an area totalling over 6.5M square kilometers. Learn more at nationalgeographic.org/pristineseas.

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