On Tuesday, December 6, 2022, the Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and South Atlantic Islands passed a law creating the Peninsula Mitre Natural Protected Area. The newly protected area covers a terrestrial and marine surface of approximately 10,000 square kilometers covering the eastern end of the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego and the marine area around Isla de los Estados, adjacent islands and islets, up to four nautical miles offshore.
The creation of this protected area was championed by the local community through various non-governmental organizations, tourism groups, scientists, and provincial legislators.
The new protected area will have different conservation and management zones for permitted uses. The main interest in protecting these areas is to promote eco-tourism. As a result, some zones will not allow extractive activities like fishing, while others will only permit these activities if they are authorized, and a management plan ensures they have low environmental impacts.
National Geographic Society, through its Pristine Seas marine conservation initiative, conducted an unprecedented expedition in 2018 to the Argentine area of Tierra del Fuego, Isla de los Estados and the oceanic area of the Drake Passage, known as the Yaganes basin. The international team from National Geographic Pristine Seas, together with Argentine researchers, recorded spectacular images of this under-explored underwater area of Argentina. Following the expedition, they produced a comprehensive scientific report and the Yaganes documentary, which was shown internationally with the goal of inspiring the creation of marine protected areas.
The expedition determined that the area is home to a large interconnected ecosystem, from the coast to the ocean’s depths, from Argentina to Chile, including sub-Antarctic islands and Antarctica. For example, some seabirds and marine mammals that breed on Isla de los Estados, such as albatrosses and sea lions, travel hundreds of kilometers to feed from the Yaganes basin to South Atlantic islands and the Drake Passage in Chilean waters.
The giant kelp forests (cachiyuyos) of Isla de los Estados export fronds to open waters up to more than a thousand meters deep, providing valuable nutrients to invertebrates, which are then ingested by fish and seabirds. On Isla de Los Estados, the Yellow-plumed Penguin has its largest colony in the world, with 140,000 pairs, and feeds in the waters of Peninsula Mitre.
A study by the National Geographic Society and the United Nations World Conservation Monitoring Center has shown that, per unit area, Peninsula Mitre is the site of greatest carbon sequestration in Argentina.
“We congratulate the community of Tierra del Fuego for protecting this area of enormous relevance for the whole world due to its extraordinary biodiversity, capacity to mitigate climate change and great attractiveness for nature tourism.” said Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer in Residence and Founder of Pristine Seas.
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 26 marine reserves, an area totalling over 6.5M square kilometers. Learn more at nationalgeographic.org/pristineseas.