The results of the survey, carried out by the IDEAL Center and the Millennium SECOS Institute, will allow to know the perception of the state of health of 33 of the 36 coastal communes of the southern zone of Chile.

What is a healthy ocean? Who harms the health of the sea? These are some of the questions that were answered by more than 1,500 face-to-face surveyed people in the Los Lagos, Aysén and Magallanes regions, as part of the first citizen consultation on Ocean Health, an initiative that in its online format gathered the opinions of 1,246 people.

On this occasion, the Center for Dynamic Research of High Latitude Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL) of the Austral University of Chile (UACh) and the Millennium Institute for Coastal Socio-Ecology (SECOS), announced the results of the face-to-face survey carried out exclusively to the inhabitants of Chilean Patagonia.

The results showed that for the majority of those surveyed, the sea represents life, peace, tranquility, work and food. People are associated as the main people responsible for damaging the health of the oceans, with 38.4%; then companies or industries with 23.5%; and salmon farms in third place with 19.9% of the responses. This consultation, in addition to reflecting how those who live in the coastal territories of Patagonia perceive the health of the sea, will contribute to the construction of the Ocean Health Index (OHI,) whose first stage will be in this territory. “At a global level, this index makes it possible to monitor the condition of the oceans and monitor the actions that nations take to meet the sustainable development goals,” explained Dr. Laura Nahuelhual, coordinator of the initiative and researcher at the Center IDEAL and the SECOS Millennium Institute.

The results of the survey will allow us to know the perception of the state of health of the 33 of the 36 coastal communes of the southern Patagonia of Chile, the factors that affect it and the capacity of each one to improve its indicator through management interventions and planning.

Ocean health in Patagonia

Some of the results obtained in the face-to-face citizen consultation indicate that for 64.4% of those surveyed in Patagonia, a healthy sea is one that has great biodiversity, living beings in their natural state and that is in balance with life. On the other hand, 55.3% associate a damaged ocean with pollution and garbage, mainly plastic.

Gonzalo Campos, an engineer in Renewable Natural Resources at the IDEAL Center, in charge of analyzing the data from the survey, commented that “according to those interviewed, the main people responsible for damaging the health of the sea in Patagonia are the people themselves and its sources of direct contamination such as garbage, while the salmon industry is the only one that is singled out as responsible for deteriorating the sea.”

71.8% of the responses indicate that the main actions carried out to improve the health of the sea in Patagonia are beach cleaning and garbage collection; only 4.6% say that there is control, monitoring, and regulations that better regulate the issue. In addition, 3.9% perceive that education, awareness, talks, workshops and/or campaigns are carried out; 2.2% indicated that it would be necessary to improve processes, infrastructure and equipment.

Benefits provided by the sea

Regarding the goods that the ocean delivers, 83.2% of people responded that they strongly agree that the sea and its coasts provide opportunities for tourism and recreation, while 82.66% strongly agreed that that this resource generates a sense of local identity and, in third place, that it helps subsistence and coastal economies (79.91%)