Campaign against the power plants

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


Bachelet Cabinet Votes to Protect ʺLa Higuera-Isla Chañaralʺ

La Serena, Landau 22. August 2017.

We have good news for the survival of the Humboldt Penguin in Chile. The Cabinet from President Bachelet have now also rejected the Dominga megaproject with the industrial port Totoralillo Norte, and thus confirmed the decision on March 9th of the Coquimbo Regional Government. The Committee of Ministers voted three to two, with one abstention, against the intended project from the Andes Iron Corporation. The Environmental, Agriculture, and Health Ministers voted against the Andes Iron project. The Mining and Energy Ministers voted for the project, and the Economic Minister abstained. The committee gathered numerous statements and analyzed them, in order competently review Andes Iron’s objection to the Regional Government’s decision. Environmental Minister Mena based the decision on the dangers to the environment and the fact that Andes Iron neglected to provide measures and means by which environmental damage would be prevented or offset. As in March, citizens and environmental protectionists celebrated this decision, and as in March, this decision caused a tremendous echo in the media – even internationally.


357.264 Signatures for the Humboldt Penguin

Sphenisco Hands Over Petitions to the Coquimbo Government

La Serena, Landau, July 4, 2017


On July 3rd, a delegation organized by Sphenisco handed Coquimbo’s Regional President, Señor Claudio Ibáñez, 357,264 signatures for the protection of the Humboldt Penguin. This small delegation was put together from the new President of the Fishers Federation, additional fishers from Los Choros and Chungungo, as well as member of the citizens’ movements MODEMA and Chao Pescao, and the NGO, Oceana. Approximately 340,000 signatures were collected through the help of “Rainforest Rescue” and the signature campaigns “Save 26,000 Penguins” and “Urgently Needed:  a Protection Area for Penguins in Chile!”. The rest was organized by Chao Pescao with the campaign “Salvemos La Higuera (Save La Higuera)”, and MODEMA. The goal of the hand-off was to demonstrate that not only do many people in Chile want to prevent the threatened destruction of the “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral” marine region, but also that people globally are concerned about this valuable marine region in northern Chile as well.


Sphenisco at the Investigative Committee

Reaction from Nancy Duman B. at the Parliamentary Investigative Committee

Valparaiso, 15. May 2017Comission

Good day. I would like to thank the members of the Parliamentary Investigative Committee for the invitation and the recognition of the work that our organization has performed, by virtue of having been invited to speak here. To begin, I would like to request to all those present, that we take out of our comments the words “objectors and supporters of the Dominga Project”. To comment about the problems with those words during the process of the environmental sustainability evaluation, is to misconstrue and trivialize the essential issues.
My intent in this meeting is to describe what we should really be worried about, and the consequences that will affect not only this region, but the entire country as well. The fundamental fact is whether the currently-existing environmental laws and the associated agencies can truly guarantee the performance of a real and objective environmental sustainability evaluation, and whether the environmental laws and standards are being adhered to.
With this in mind, I must remind you that the goal of this investigative committee is to investigate “irregularities, mistakes, and deficiencies” that have been questioned by various organizations of the civilian community, including our organization.


“Dominga“ Investigative Committe

- Chamber of Representatives Investigates Irregularities -

La Serena, Landau, 06 April, 2017.

At the beginning of last year, Sphenisco published the “La Higuera- Chañaral Island Declaration”, in order to preserve the breeding areas of the Humboldt Penguin. More than 500 institutions and celebrities all over the world have signed the declaration. 227,444 people supported Rainforest Rescue’s online petition (s.a. “Save the Habitat of 26,000 Humboldt Penguins!”). In the declaration, the politically responsible parties were, among other things, called upon to investigate the irregularities in the environmental assessment of the mine and port projects in northern Chile.

KongressThese efforts were doubly successful. First, the Chilean Regional Government in Coquimbo rejected the planned “Dominga” project (s.a. our article on 09 March, 2017). Now the Chamber of Representatives from the Chilean National Congress have discussed the “Dominga” approval process, and decided to form an investigative committee. The goal of this committee is, by July 1st, to look into any possible “irregularities, mistakes, or loopholes” in the environmental sustainability review process. The findings of this investigation is of high political impact, even though it is not binding on the Chilean government. The committee will be lead by Raúl Saldivar. Mr. Saldivar also plans to hear the NGOs’ Oceana and Sphenisco’s views on the issue as well. During this time, our employee, Nancy Duman, will have the opportunity to present the Representatives with the deficiencies that occurred during the environmental review of the “Dominga” project.

The central failing of SEA (The governmental agency responsible Raulfor the environmental sustainability review) with respect to “Dominga,” was that only the impact of the immediate surroundings of the port project were evaluated, and not the ecosystem as a whole, which includes the neighboring protected areas. That means that the environmental sustainability review was not conducted in a regionally comprehensive manner. The breeding island Chañaral (part of the National Protection Area of the Humboldt Penguin) lies in the Atacama Region, and the impacts on this island were not taken into consideration at all. For example, dangerous emissions from ship traffic would reach this protected island within 24 hours. It is also feared that the island would be threatened by possible contamination through the entry of invasive species. SEA even went so far as to deny CONAF (the Chilean agency responsible for the protected areas) any authority in the review, and demanded that it not take a position regarding the possible ramifications of ship traffic on these protected areas. Other aspects, such as the disposal of poison residues and debris that come from ore mining, and further formalities in the environmental impact assessment were not adequately adhered to.

For the first time, a political discussion happened on a national level about the sustainable development of the “La Higuera” community.  And for the first time, attention is being paid to the possible exertion of illegitimate influence. We are curious to see how thoroughly the investigative committee will shed light on the process that led to the previous decision in the environmental review of the “Dominga” project. There is the possibility that facts will triumph over fakes. With its partners Oceana, Chao Pescao, and Modema, Sphenisco will work toward that goal.


translated by Erich Greiner