La Serena, 19 November 2023.
Trade unions from Coquimbo, in which a minority of fishermen from La Higuera are organized, are taking legal action before the Court of Appeal of La Serena to have the foundation of the Área Marina Costeras Protegidas de Múltiple Uso (AMCP-MU) (1) Humboldt Archipelago declared illegal. Prior to the trial, supporters of the mining and port projects in Caleta Los Hornos and La Serena recurrently demonstrated against this decision. The supporters are encouraged by Andes Iron and are probably even assigned by the company. The media reported on these actions rather one-sidedly. Therefore "Alianza Humboldt Coquimbo Atacama" issued the following statement:
"Establishing a marine protective area with multiple uses has been the wish of the municipalities of La Higuera and Freirina since 2009. They have been waiting for more than ten years. The "Humboldt Archipelago Marine Protected Area" was approved by three presidents of the Republic!
Of all the protected areas that have been created in Chile so far, the "Área Marina Costeras Protegidas de Múltiple Uso (AMCP-MU) Humboldt Archipelago" has led to the most voting and citizen surveys.
It was approved by the Michelle Bachelet government's Council of Ministers for Sustainability in March 2018. Prior to the vote, a series of meetings and a citizen survey were held in all bays of La Higuera in 2017.
In December 2022, the Council of Ministers for Sustainability of Sebastián Piñera's government also voted unanimously for founding an AMCP-MU. However, this protection zone had a different scope, it was decided without any citizen survey and was based on technical “expert” reports that were prepared within four weeks.
This August, President Gabriel Boric's Council of Ministers for Sustainability voted unanimously for the foundation of an AMCP-MU. In doing so the bi-regionality of the area was taken into account in the technical reports. As is generally known, the ecosystem is located in the regions of Coquimbo and Atacama. With this decision, the government accepts the original proposal of the municipality and the two regional governments, which is based on scientific and technical reports of the relevant institutions. The declaration was prepared in January 2022 with a series of workshops organized by the municipality and held in all bays of La Higuera and Freirina. This was followed by another citizen survey in January as well as two informative workshops in May, one in Caleta Los Hornos and another one in Punta de Choros.
The application to establish this AMCP-MU is more than 14 years old and was made before it was attempted to install mega-projects with strong impacts on the environment, such as coal-fired power plants and mega-ports for the transportation of large quantities of minerals. In 2009, fishing and environmental organizations asked the NGO Oceana for assistance in preparing a technically founded proposal and to submit it to the Ministry of the Environment. The proposal was submitted in July 2010.
For more than 14 years now, we have attended countless meetings and information and consultation activities, both on the part of the institutions and on those organized by the community itself. To name just a few milestones: in 2014, the first round of consultation took place in all bays. Between 2015 and 2016, the AMCP-MU Extended Committee met with the participation of fishermen leaders from all bays and socio-ecological organizations. In each bay a photo exhibition was held. Parliamentarians were invited to the community meetings, however; not those defending the interests of the megaports, namely ports that pose the greatest threat to the cultivation zones and the entire Humboldt archipelago.
Furthermore, the proposal was submitted to the Regional Council of All Governments and the Regional Commission for the Use of the coastal strip, in which the fishermen's associations from the entire Coquimbo region are represented.
It was a long and highly participatory process with ups and downs. The biggest obstacles came from the private sector, though. Let’s just recall that Sebastián Piñera, as president in 2010, was the largest shareholder in Andes Iron and that he tied the final payment - when he sold his shares to his friend Délano - to the commitment not to provide any form of protection while he was president.
It is worth remembering that the Humboldt Archipelago is an ecosystem recognized by the international community as a priority for biodiversity conservation. It is located in the northern center of Chile and home to a large number of emblematic and endangered species such as the blue whale, fin whale, humpback whale, orca, roundhead dolphin and bottlenose dolphin, chungo, cormorant, Peruvian petrel, little tern and 80% of the world population of the Humboldt penguin, among many other species. The most productive areas for the extraction and cultivation of benthic resources (AMERBs) in the entire north-central zone of Chile are located here. In addition, the local economy has undeniable development prospects here and in fact good ones, which do not destroy but protect and respect the natural resources. Currently there are sustainable job-offers in the tourism and fishing sectors. In the face of the serious consequences of climate change, which is now putting the country and the Coquimbo and Atacama region in particular into an unprecedented state of mega-drought, this favorable situation must be maintained and improved.
The conservation of natural resources is an urgent measure in adapting to the climate change and a crucial factor for the survival of the human species. This is why the archipelago is appreciated as a place of hope for humanity.
The AMCP-MU will benefit both artisanal fishermen from the communities of La Higuera, Freirina and La Serena, and fishermen from neighboring sectors.
The current challenge is to actively take part in ensuring the sustainable use of the increasingly tight marine resources, promoting a balanced development and protecting areas with exceptional oceanographic conditions, such as the coastline of the municipality of La Higuera in region IV and Freirina in region III.
Thus we are calling on the media to report in a responsible and truthful manner. All content of this statement is supported by photos, protocols and agreements from various institutions.
Gabriel Molina Luis Cortes Nancy Duman
translated by Angelika Veelken
(1) marine protected area Humboldt Archipelago with multiple use
(2) "Alianza Humboldt Coquimbo Atacama" consists of 30 organizations from the Humboldt Archipelago, including the largest trade unions and more than 120 functional organizations belonging to the Atacama and Coquimbo regions.
(3) the declaration of 17 November 2023 was translated using the deepl software.