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Proyecto Reserva Marina de Navidad

The Proyecto Reserva Marina de Navidad is a unique effort to create a new marine protected area in Navidad, a small rural town on the central Chilean coast. The project is unusual because it was initiated by a grassroots group of local fishermen and town officials, who approached marine scientists at ECIM with the idea of establishing a marine reserve in the coastal waters adjacent to their town. A collaborative team was formed to pursue the project, with representatives from the municipality, the local fishermen’s organizations, and ECIM, including faculty member Miriam Fernández, as part of her Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation, and socio-biologist Stefan Gelcich, an ECIM postdoc specializing in artisanal fishery co-management. This project is a potential model for grassroots development of marine protected areas in Chile (and potentially worldwide), particularly with respect to the active participation of artisanal fishermen and local municipalities, in collaboration with conservation scientists.

The project includes the process of defining the marine reserve area, collecting baseline data and applying for protected status, and developing a management plan. Another important aspect of the project is outreach to the local community about the significance of the marine reserve, and identification of economic or other benefits that the reserve could create for the community, such as through educational or ecotourism opportunities.

As a project partner, ECIM has offered assistance with the formal process of establishing the reserve. In addition, ECIM has offered Navidad’s high school students, many of them from the local fishing community, a week-long marine ecology course combining lectures and field trips, focusing on intertidal organisms found in the proposed marine protected area and the role of reserves in marine conservation.