Punta Arenas, June 14—Communities belonging to the Kawésqar people have formally requested to the Chilean government that the current Kawésqar national reserve, located in the Magallanes region, be declared a national park. The main effect of granting this request would be to increase the level of protection for the marine ecosystem, prohibiting activities such as salmon farming, which is currently permitted within the protected area.
The petitioners are grouped in the Kawésqar Communities for the Defense of the Sea, and are composed of the Ata’p, Aswal lajep, Renchi Navarino Family Group, Residents in Rio Primero, Inés Caro and Nomades del Mar Family Groups.
In January 2019, Chile created the Kawésqar National Park covering the land part, but the marine areas composed of canals and fjords of high ecological value were excluded. With this, the sea was left without effective protections 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.
In a letter addressed to Chile’s Minister of National Assets, Javiera Toro, and brought to the attention of Chilean President Gabriel Boric, the communities seek the creation of a unit of protection between the land and the sea, incorporating the fragile fjord and channel systems of the current Kawésqar National Reserve into the Kawésqar National Park.
“The Kawésqar communities made it clear at the time that limiting the Kawésqar National Park to the land portion, leaving the maritime territory in a lesser degree of protection and vulnerability, is contrary to our cosmovision and territories of life. The sea and the land make up the ancestral territory of the Kawésqar or Kawésqar Wæs people. They are a unit and we do not believe in artificial divisions such as those made by treating them differently,” declared the Kawésqar Communities for the Defense of the Sea.
The grounds that support the request are contained in the report called “Kawésqar National Reserve: Traditional Knowledge, Biodiversity and Recommendations for the Protection of the Territory.” This report was co-written by scientists from National Geographic Pristine Seas, a global marine conservation initiative and members of the Kawésqar communities. The report combined scientific and biocultural knowledge gathered during two expeditions to the area of the Patagonian fjords that corresponds to the ancestral territory of the Kawésqar people or Kawésqar Wæs.