Campaign against the power plants

Gracias Consejo Consultivo!

With my signature I join with Sphenisco e.V. in thanking Consejo Consultivo (advisory board), of the National Protection Area of the Humboldt Penguin. For more than 20 years, the advisory board has exemplarily, and incorruptibly advocated for the habitat of the Humboldt Penguin and other threatened species. In the zone of the Protection Area eight different species of whale, nine species of dolphins find sustenance, bottlenose dolphins raise their young, and many coastal residents earn their living through fishing as well as tourism. Each of us, each according to his abilities, will continue to support Consejo Consultivos’ efforts to protect this ecosystem of global importance.

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Can Justice See in the Dark and Does She Even Want to?

La Serena, Landau 21. March 2018.

JustitiaWe remember. Sphenisco and Chilean environmentalists continually pointed out the irregularities in the environmental review of the Dominga project (Andes Iron Corporation), and even demanded an investigative committee be formed because of it. The Parliament met this demand and investigated the irregularities, mistakes, and deficiencies in the review of the Dominga project. Our employee Nancy Duman testified at the investigative committee and summarized her comments as follows:

  1. The applicant has presented a project that does not meet the minimum requirements in order to be assessed.
  2. During the review process, observations of governmental organizations with environmental competence were ignored.
  3. The document provided, and its enhancements or addenda do not contain sufficient information in order to allow for a correct environmental sustainability review.
  4. SEA should therefore have suggested a rejection and not a consent.
  5. The vote of the Commission took place with all of these aspects having being presented.
  6. Academics and research about the meaning of the archipelago and the coastal area of La Higuera was not taken into consideration, the opinion of scientific experts was not called upon (see also report from 15. May 2017).

The following question is therefore legitimate:  what influence is responsible for these failures? Who exerted influence, so that the SEA (the agency responsible for reviewing environmental compatibility) recommended approval of the project, despite insufficient factual justification?


Marine Protection Area So Close and Yet So Far

La Serena, Landau 18. March 2018.


The marine protection area in northern Chile “Pinguino de Humboldt” (marine region of La Higuera-Isla Chañaral), was applied for over 10 years ago. The application is scientifically well-justified and should prevent the destruction of a globally meaningful ecosystem that is the main breeding area of the Humboldt Penguin. After much public participation, the population is currently in favor of a protection area and considers the project a chance for the La Higuera region to develop long-term in a sustainable manner.

The protection of this sensitive ecosystem in the Coquimbo Region has again and again conflicted with powerful economic interests. First a hotel, then three coal-fired power plants, and now multiple ports for the shipment of iron ore should be built, without any regard for the environment. In addition, the planned protection area does not fit with the development of a bi-oceanic corridor. The intended corridor should connect the Pacific with the Atlantic Oceans and requires huge port capacities, among other things in the La Higuera municipality.


Marine Protection Area “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral” 2017 – A Chronology


Landau, 18. December 2017

For more than 20 years, industrial projects have repeatedly threatened the marine region “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral” in northern Chile, and with that also threaten the main breeding area of the Humboldt Penguin. A few years ago it was the coal-fired power plants Barrancones and Farellones that endangered this threatened penguin species, currently it is the Dominga mining and port project as well as the port project Cruz Grande, from the mining company CMP (Compañia Minera del Pacifico). The following chronology documents the events and successes in the battle for the habitat of the Humboldt Penguins and other threatened species in the year 2017:


  • the previous year ends with a protest against the Dominga Project and the industrial port Totoralillo (see article from 10. December 2016).
  • proceedings in the lawsuit from the citizens group MODEMA against the approval of the Cruz Grande project begin in Santiago.


  • after numerous objections against “Dominga” as part of citizens participation, the SEA (the agency  responsible for the environmental compatibility review), to the surprise of all, extends the period for the environmental review and calls on the participanting agencies to explain their opinions in a Fourth Addendum (see article from 2. February 2017).


Without Blue, No Green, and Without Green, No Us!

La Serena, Coquimbo 12. September 2017.

This fitting premise accompanied the atmosphere that was experienced at meetings, discussions, informational exchanges and exhibitions during the five-day IMPAC 4 Congress in the Coquimbo Region, Chile. Without a doubt those present – experts, scientists, persons with social and political functions, holders of office, students, as well as advocates for a responsible relationship with the environment – were absolutely convinced of the urgency to protect the oceans, our seas, the fountainhead of life.

Sphenisco, in unison with and consistently following the motives for its founding in the year 2007, took part in the Congress in order to plant this impulse both in Chile and internationally with Save the Rainforest’s petition “Speak Out for Chile’s Humboldt Penguins!”


The International Marine Protected Areas Congress and the Governmental Crisis in Chile - Sphenisco Campaigns for a Marine Protected Area and UNESCO World Heritage Site

Landau, 2 September.

On the 4th of September, the 4th International Marine Protected Areas Congress – IMPAC 4, will begin in Coquimbo and La Serena, in northern Chile. Due to the many damaging influences and pollution, the marine ecosystem is in severe jeopardy:       

One third of the global fish population suffers from overfishing, and 61% is fished to the limits of its capacity

Through carbon dioxide emissions, the pH level of the ocean water is sinking, the oceans threaten to acidify, which would have devastating consequences for coral reefs, fish and other marine species

Further dangers include tanker accidents, industrial waste, plastic and garbage from civilization.

In order for the ecosystem “Ocean” to regenerate and in order to preserve the currently-existing biodiversity, marine protected areas urgently need to be established. 2,000 professionals from all over the globe will be discussing these problems for a week at the International Congress, and will be providing information on the organization and management of marine protected areas. The participants will also visit the marine region “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral”, about 100 kilometers away.

For over 20 years, residents, scientists, and environmental protectionists have been fighting for the preservation of this local hotspot of biodiversity; until now – thank God, with continual success. Just recently, on August 21st, the Bachelet Cabinet rejected a large mining and port project, and spoke out for sustainable development:  development yes, but it must occur in harmony with the environment (see article “Bachelet Cabinet votes for…” on this website). That decision not only resulted in a phenomenal echo throughout the media – nationally and internationally – but also caused a governmental crisis. The Finance Minister Rodrigo Valdés and the Economic Minister Luis Felipe Céspedes, publically criticized the decision and as a result were removed from office by President Bachelet. The topics of environmental protection and sustainable development divide the Chilean community and politics.

Against this backdrop, IMPAC 4 is occurring in La Serena. Sphenisco is participating at the Congress and will be providing information on the threatened destruction of the marine region “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral” (s.a. Handout and Video). Together with our partners, Sphenisco will again urge the politically responsible parties, because of its international significance, to turn this marine region into a strictly protected area, and apply through UNESCO for it to declare this marine paradise a World Heritage Site. Sphenisco requests that the 2,000 professionals to come to our organization’s booth at the Congress and sign the Online Petition from Rainforest Rescue, and thus help save this hotspot of biodiversity.


translated by Erich Greiner