Press Release

Uruguay Commits to Establish a New Marine Protected Area around Isla de Lobos

This World Ocean Day, Uruguay made early steps toward an ambitious goal of protecting at least 30% of Uruguay’s waters by 2030 by announcing a commitment to establish the country’s newest marine protected area (MPA) around Isla de Lobos—home of one of South America’s largest sea lion colonies. Photo Credit: Steve Spence/National Geographic

In December 2021, National Geographic Pristine Seas conducted an expedition to Uruguay’s Isla de Lobos and Bajo de Mejillones as a continuation of the team's previous work in the region. This area, which has been proposed as a 12,000 km² marine reserve, is home to sea lions, amberjacks, sharks, and sea turtles. To support the designation of a no-take marine protected area, the team collaborated with local partners and scientists to gather data, collect media, and promote education.

Photograph by In December 2021, National Geographic Pristine Seas conducted an expedition to Uruguay’s Isla de Lobos and Bajo de Mejillones as a continuation of the team's previous work in the region. This area, which has been proposed as a 12,000 km² marine reserve, is home to sea lions, amberjacks, sharks, and sea turtles. To support the designation of a no-take marine protected area, the team collaborated with local partners and scientists to gather data, collect media, and promote education.

Montevideo, Uruguay (June 8, 2023)—As people around the world gear up to commemorate World Ocean Day, in Uruguay, Gerando Amarilla, Vice Minister of Environment, announced the government’s commitment to establish a new marine protected area (MPA) around the island of Isla de Lobos. The designation will take place in the next few months. This future marine reserve represents the current administration's first step toward the ambitious goal set by President Luis Lacalle to protect 30% of Uruguay’s waters by 2030. Currently, Uruguay has less than 1% protected coverage of its marine ecosystems.

In December 2022, the Ministry of Environment recommended seven marine priority areas for conservation. At the same time, it decided to launch projects to include three of these areas in the National System of Protected Areas (SNAP) during this administration. Isla de Lobos is the first of these that will be soon designated as a marine protected area.

Pristine Seas first visited Uruguay in March 2021 to conduct an expedition in partnership with Uruguay’s National Navy into the deep water reef systems along the continental shelf located 100 miles offshore. The team returned to Uruguay in December 2021 to research Isla de Lobos and Bajo de Mejillones in collaboration with local partners. Based on their findings, they developed scientific reports that were presented to President Luis Lacalle Pou in 2022. Since these expeditions, Pristine Seas has continued collaborating with local partners including Mar Azul Uruguayo, Karumbé, Uruguayan scientists, the National Navy, and the Ministry of Environment, to support efforts to create marine reserves in Uruguay’s waters.

“This announcement by Uruguay marks a turning point in its relationship with the sea. We congratulate the government for this important commitment, which we hope will be the first of many that will lead Uruguay to protect its extremely valuable marine ecosystems”, said Alex Muñoz, National Geographic’s Pristine Seas Director for Latin America.

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ABOUT PRISTINE SEAS

Pristine Seas works with Indigenous and local communities, governments, and other partners to help protect vital places in the ocean using a unique combination of research, community engagement, policy work, and strategic communications and media. Since 2008, our program has conducted 39 expeditions around the world and helped establish 26 marine reserves, spanning more than 6.5 million square kilometers of ocean.

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