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[La Estrella Chiloe] Three Buoys will be Installed in the Inland Sea to Warn of Whale Presence

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Carolina Larenas Faúndez

Two of the last three whale strandings that have occurred in the country are due to violent collisions with vessels, in which the mammals are left seriously injured. One case happened recently in Chumeldén, Chaitén, Palena province, and involved the death of a blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus).

In 2018, the Castro Port Captaincy issued a resolution with recommendations for vessels sailing in the area to avoid this type of accidents, but also MERI is working on a project that seeks to install technology in the inland sea area of Chiloé that allows alerting ships to the presence of cetaceans.

With the sponsorship of the Ministry of the Environment, MERI has been working for two years on The Blue Boat Initiative, which hopes to install—before the end of this year—three buoys in the area of the Corvocado Gulf to determine the location of these animals and warn vessels sailing in the area.

This was explained by Ana María Molina, executive director of the foundation, adding that due to the pandemic the implementation of the project has been delayed, but the idea is to begin the installation of the oceanographic buoys in the second half of this year.

These elements would be equipped with technology to listen to whales, which would emit a signal to an early warning station from which it would be sent to the vessels.

“Large vessels have a system called AIS through which we want to signal them, but in the area we also have a high traffic of smaller vessels and for them we have to agree on the way in which we are going to alert them,” said the biochemist.

In parallel with this, the foundation aims to convince decision-makers, civil society and academia to value the ecosystem services offered by these sea giants in mitigating climate change.

“The blue whale is one of our conservation targets in the Gulf of Corcovado, in the area we have worked on environmental education with schools and adults so that they can be part of the solution,” she said.

CONFIRMED In recent days, the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service (Sernapesca) confirmed that the cause of death of the blue whale stranded the week before last in Chumeldén, Los Lagos Region, was due to a collision with a vessel. The information was released after the preliminary results of the necropsy came to light.

It was a juvenile male specimen of just over 14 meters in length and weighing 30 tons.

In the last two months, there have also been strandings of cetaceans in the country, at least in Magallanes and Mejillones, in the Antofagasta Region. For the latter area and Corcovado there are navigation regulations for whale-vessel encounters.

Source: La Estrella