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).


  • the Coquimbo Regional Government rejects the Dominga Project and its port in Totoralillo Norte. With the vote on the project ending in a tie (six ministers voted for and six voted against the project), Minister President Claudio Ibáñez provides the deciding vote (see article from 9. March 2017).


  • the Chilean Parliament discusses the “Dominga” approval process and decides to form an investigative committee (see article from 6. April 2017).
  • World Penguin Day: as a central part to international activities on this day stands the petition “Speak Out for Chile's Humboldt Penguins!”, from Rainforest Rescue. Participants on World Penguin Day that staged events included The Santiago Zoo in Chile, Acorema (partner NGO to Sphenisco in Peru) at three different locations, and friends in New Zealand, England, and Luxembourg. In Germany, participants included bird sanctuaries, zoological gardens, and zoos from the following locations: Bernburg, Bochum, Bremerhaven, Dresden, Frankfurt, Hagenbeck, Hamburg, Halle, Karlsruhe, Krefeld, Landau, Lübbenau, Mannheim, Marlow, Neuwied, Osnabrück, and Saarbrücken (see article from 6. June 2017).


  • At the parliamentary investigative committee, Nancy Duman names the deficiencies during the environmental review of the “Dominga” project:
    1. the applicant – The Andes Iron Company – presented a project that did not meet the minimum requirements in order to be assessed.
    2. during the environmental review process, observations made by government organizations with environmental competence were ignored.
    3. the document provided for review, and its enhancements and 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 an approval of the project.
    5. the vote of the Commission took place with all of these above aspects having been presented.
    6. academics and research about the meaning of the archipeligo and the coastal area of La Higuera was not taken into consideration, the opinion of scientific experts was not called upon. (see article from 15. May 2017).


  • The environmental court dismisses the case against the Cruz Grande port project.
  • The citizens movement MODEMA chooses, with support of the NGO Oceana, to file a suit with the Chilean Supreme Court against the environmental court's decision.


  • Nancy Duman from Sphenisco hands over 357,000 signatures against the “Dominga” project and for a marine protection area “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral” directly to Señor Claudio Ibáñez, the Coquimbo Region Ministerpresident (see article from 4. July 2017).


  • Nancy Duman from Sphenisco hands over 357,000 signatures against the “Dominga” project and for a marine protection area “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral” directly to President Bachalet, (see article
    from 22. August 2017).
  • President Bachelet's Cabinet also votes against the “Dominga” project. (see article from 22. August 2017).


  • Sphenisco promotes the “La Higuera-Isla Chañaral” Marine Protection Area at the 4th World Congress for Marine Protection Areas (IMPAC 4) in La Serena/Coquimbo, Chile. (see articles from 2. and 12. September 2017).

Oktober / November

  • the island of Gavoita is put under natural protection and integrated into the already-existing Humboldt Penguin Natural Protection Area (islands of Damas, Choros, and Chañaral).
  • Ministerpresident of the Coquimbo Region, Claudio Ibáñez, authorizes that breeding islands Pajeros 1 and 2, Tilgo, Chungungo, and Totoralillo be declared federal property.
  • The Coquimbo Region Natural Forest Corporation (CONAF, under the Ministry of Agriculture), requests that this newly-declared federal property be protected and be included into the Humboldt Penguin Natural Protection Area.


  • Sebastian Piñera wins the presidential race in Chile. During his campaign, he spoke out in support of the Dominga mining and port project. In Chile, the Regional Presidents are appointed by the President himself. It is therefore certain that the new President will appoint a new government in Coquimbo.


translated by Erich Greiner

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