Argentina Marine Programme

Geographical location:

Latin America/Caribbean > South America > Argentina

The challenge is to conserve marine ecosystems and the sustainable economic potential of fisheries resources, securing the livelihoods of fishing communities. Argentina.
© WWF-FVSA / Martin Brunella


The waters off of eastern Argentina are very cold because of strong currents from Antarctica, but remain calm and somewhat warmer in lagoons and gulfs. The coastal area provides important breeding habitat for marine seabirds and mammals. At one time it was also rich in fish, but unsustainable practices have lead to the collapse of a number of commercial fisheries.

WWF is working in the area to increase the conservation status of Patagonia and the Southwest Atlantic by establishing marine protected areas and developing sustainable fisheries.


The marine ecoregion that surrounds eastern Argentina and Uruguay includes one of the largest continental shelf in the world and is vitally important for the country’s economy. Productive fisheries are only possible because rich oceanic conditions bring nutrients, plankton and fish into Argentine waters; but despite this richness, events have shown that normally abundant fisheries can and do fail.

In the 1990s unsustainable practices caused the commercial collapse of more than six fisheries, with the loss of thousands of jobs.

Until recently there were no federal Marine-coastal Protected Areas (MPAs) in Argentine waters - despite the area’s ecological (as well as economic) wealth.


Overall objective

Increase the conservation status of Patagonia and Southwest Atlantic by creating and improving the management of protected areas, ecosystem-based fisheries management including minimising bycatch and protecting priority species and their habitats.

Specific objectives

Marine protected areas (MPAs): by 2008, 5 MPAs covering 820 km of coast and 360,000 hectares of sea effectively managed; by 2008 an agreement to work on the creation of a high sea MPA covering 22 million hectares is achieved.

Sustainable fisheries: by 2008 the status of San Matías Gulf fish stocks and Southwest Atlantic squid are secured and the ecological impacts from bycatch and discards measurably reduced in Buenos Aires coastal and Argentine hake ecosystem units.

Priority marine species: by 2008 the threat from fisheries bycatch and/or tourism for the Southern right whale, dolphin and turtle populations is measurably reduced.


Threats can become opportunities by applying the concept that healthy ecosystems and long term sustainability of fisheries and tourism will benefit industry, communities and conservation through sustainable development.

It will be a major challenge to ensure that an increase in ecotourism in Argentina is not only supported and encouraged but optimizes the economic benefits for coastal communities, while including the sustainable management in the network of Marine Protected Areas.

Full-scale fisheries recovery plans are required, coupled with the resources for good management. It will also be a priority, following the recent economic crisis in Argentina, to link ecoregional planning to economic recovery.


Marine protected areas

- FVSA and other specialists from governments and NGOs published indicators for establishing management effectiveness of 40 Argentine Marine/Coastal Protected Areas (MCPAs). Impact: Official evaluation process for assessing the management of existing Argentine MCPAs effectively achieved.

- Monte Leon has become the first coastal national park on the continental marine coast of Argentina. Impact: A leading case to demonstrate provincial territory can be successfully managed by the federal government for the benefit of the province and to protect 40 km (1%) of Argentina's coastline.

- San Paolo ranch (7,200 ha and 12 km coast) situated in the Valdes Provincial Protected Area has been purchased by FVSA. Impact: Provincial government has identified FVSA as a key player in the future management of the Valdes Protected Area, the development of a responsible tourism plan for Valdes and service towns and has offered to match fund in principal USD 180,000 to FVSA-WWF (Netherlands) funding of USD 200,000 for a visitor centre in Valdes.

Sustainable fisheries

- Argentine fishing industry leader Guillermo Jacobs made a FVSA-WWF video, committing his support to a high seas MPA for the Argentine shortfin squid stock and first option for the design of the MPA drafted with the fishing industry. Impact: Political reality of achieving a high seas MPAs has increased with further and concrete commitment from key stakeholders.

- Match funding of USD 50,000 for a multi-species certification project of Gulf of San Matias confirmed from the Sustainable Fisheries Fund (United States), technical working group formed and artisanal fishermen interviewed by social expert. Impact: FVSA catalyses a leading case to develop the world's first multi-species certification procedure with a fully participatory process in an ecosystem-based management unit (Gulf of San Matias).


- Local research scientists and artisanal fishermen designed and tested alternative fishing gears, such as handlines, to mitigate the bycatch of the Franciscana dolphin in the gill net fisheries. During 3 years FVSA and AquaMarina monitored the movement pattern of Franciscanas. Impact: The change in gear and practice required to mitigate Franciscana dolphin bycatch is identified. Information about the distribution range of the specie along Argentinean coast is available.

- FVSA supports a research project on the causes and effects of the interaction between Kelp gulls and Southern right whales at Península Valdés. Air census are developped every year to determinate the size of whales and cetaceans populations and their distribution. FVSA works with whale watching companies and local actors to reduce the negative impacts of tourism on whales and cetaceans populations. Impact: Population stability of the Southern right whale is verified annually. Baseline information about seabird annoyance on whales is being determined. Codes of Conduct for whale and dolphin watching are developed.

Tourism sensitive zones

- 137 clients of the United Kingdom Tour Operator “The Newmarket Group” visited FVSA Argentine national parks in 2005 and Peninsula Valdes each automatically donating USD 50 for elaborating the MPA Fund and implementing a work programme for responsible tourism in sensitive areas. Impact: Steps towards achieving sustainable tourism in Valdes protected area and service towns advanced by making funding available for priority actions and jointly implementing actions as reported in the bi-annual report of the partnership.

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