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Chile: Breaking News.

Monday, December 20th 2004 - 20:00 UTC
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Commercial exploitation of kelp; Long term Chilean Antarctic planning; Magallanes eolian digital map.

Commercial exploitation of kelp

The commercial exploitation of kelp, macrocystis pyrifera in the Magallanes Region will be undertaken in a four years experimental program. During a conference in Punta Arenas Raul Ugarte a Chilean scientist and PhD in Marine Ecology from the Dalhouse University in Canada where he has lived for 18 years, said that the Canadian experience, with good management and sustained development strategies, could help open an interesting opportunity for commercial exploitation of kelp, "particularly since Magallanes has one of the world's main reserves of macrocystis pyrifera". However, it's essential that the different government institutions, universities and industry, "agree on a basic experimental plan", because Chile actually has "a good to very good research capacity" said Mr. Ugarte. "The idea is to have a limited biomass of kelp to harvest, parallel with a research program monitoring the effect on the crop. In four years time there should be sufficient information to assess effects and either increase biomass or cut the program completely", explained Mr. Ugarte who has considerable experience in a similar program developed in New Brunswick, northern Atlantic. Macrocystis pyrifera can be used as animal feed, fertilizer and in some cases for human consumption particularly working from alginates that have a strong demand from the food and textile industries. Chilean Fisheries Department officials admitted that in the northern regions of Chile coastal fishermen commercially exploit three different types of algae but given the free access, "there are clear signals of over exploitation". "We believe that it's important that before industrial exploitation of kelp begins in Magallanes, we must dimension the algae, make an assessment of the biomass and open a registry for those interested in the activity", said Alejandra Pinto from the Fisheries Department. However Jorge Sierpe head of the Magallanes Fisheries Department was more cautious about the initiative pointing out that the macro algae belt along the coast "plays an important ecological and sustainability role for many shell fish", and "only as long as we can achieve a rational management of a future industry, we can protect the ecologic system". Another worrisome issue is the fact that Magallanes has 2,000 coastal fishermen, of which only 200 are registered, and "if industrial exploitation of kelp becomes an option, we could be running into an ecologic disaster area", insisted Mr. Sierpe.

Long term Chilean Antarctic planning

Punta Areas will be hosting next March an international Antarctic meeting with the purpose of drafting a framework to define a five years program of activities, 2006/2010 for the Chilean Antarctic Institute, INACH. Jose Retamales head of INACH said that at least three countries involved in polar activities will be present together with the Chilean organizations of scientists related to Antarctic research and affairs. "We believe that the scientific activities agenda for the next five years. 2006/2010, must be discussed in the March meeting taking into account some vital issues in the coming years such as global weather change, Antarctic krill, ozone and all those subjects that need long term planning", pointed out Mr. Retamales in Punta Arenas. "This year we'll be working with all Chilean scientists and programs involved in Antarctic research, and we are most interested that they can hear first hand about the US Antarctic program, the Australian program, the German program?" Mr. Retamales added that in the context of international cooperation "we are looking for greater cooperation at that level in Punta Arenas, and therefore the need to be in contact with other countries' programs".

Magallanes eolian digital map

The University of Magallanes in Punta Arenas together with a private institution, Osorno Electricity Cooperative, is working in the creation of a regional eolian digital atlas with the purpose of taking advantage of wind energy. The School of Engineering is establishing in different areas wind measuring and data collecting equipment which will feed into a software computer system that is already being applied in the north of Chile under the sponsorship of Chile's Centre for the Study of Energy Resources. The future Magallanes eolian atlas will include information on land rugosity, digital topography and charts from the area. With all this information the potential areas for an eolian park can be determined as well as estimates of annual production and generation costs. Mr. Hernán Pinochet from Osorno Electricity revealed that the company and the Magallanes University have a working and research relation dating back to 1986 with the purpose of developing alternative sustainable energy such as solar, eolian and hydroelectric. The fifteen months project has the support from several European countries that have long experience in non contaminating renewable energy systems.

Categories: Mercosur.

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