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Scientists request President Piñera to relocate wind farm to protect whales

Santiago de Chile, 14 de Diciembre de 2011 (CCC News) – Representatives of the Cetacean Conservation Center and Ecoceanos Center delivered today a joint statement in the presidential palace La Moneda addressed to president Sebastian Piñera, regarding the wind farm project “parque eólico Chiloé”.

The letter, that has the support of 45 marine mammal specialists from around the world, expresses the concerns of the researchers “regarding the development of a large scale wind farm project to be located in the coastal borderline of the northwestern zone of Chiloe Island in Chile, an area internationally recognized as a critical habitat for a unique population of endangered blue whales”.

The message adds that even though the wind farm is expected to be installed on shore, the project and associated constructions of new ports could generate negative impacts on marine mammals, including displacement of the animals from critical habitats, possible collisions between large vessels and whales and interference of their communication system and behaviors. “It is important to note that scientific evidence shows that the noise produced by wind farms construction and some maintenance activities can have negative impacts on marine mammals” alert the experts.

They also state that the “Northwestern Chiloe Island is internationally recognized as having one of the most important aggregations of blue whales currently known in the southern hemisphere” and highlight that the area is “as an important feeding ground for the population and a critical habitat for the life cycle of this endangered species”.

The scientists also called the attention about the presence of southern right whales in the proposed area for the wind farm, since “this specific population was recently classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ by IUCN because its current population could be less than 50 mature individuals” and affirmed that “it is of great importance to afford maximum protection to the species in order to avoid its extinction in Chilean waters”.

Juan Carlos Cardenas, veterinarian and director of Ecoceanos Center affirmed that the letter “is a strong signal from the international scientific community that can not be ignored by the Chilean government. We reiterate our demand to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and relocate the project in order to comply with our national environmental laws and international commitments”.

The joint statement also recalls that on july 2011 the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) made an urgent request to the government of Chile to “conduct and EIA as well as reconsider the location of the wind farm project farther from the coastline”.

Barbara Galletti, president of the Cetacean Conservation Center affirmed that national authorities ignored these recommendations when approving the project without and EIA and continues to do so even though all cetacean species are legally protected in Chilean. “The project violates our national legislation so we expect the government to invalidate the irregular approval of the project” concluded Galletti.

In this regard, the letter from the scientists requests president Piñera to “acknowledge and implement the recommendations of the Scientific Committee and grant special attention to mitigating potential impacts on cetaceans from the proposed wind farm project”.

The mega wind farm project has generated broad opposition due to continuing irregularities that resulted in approval by the Regional Environmental Commission of Los Lagos region last August.

After delivering the joint statement in the presidential palce, Cardenas and Galletti were received by presidential advisor Felipe Alessandri, who expressed concern about the seriousness of this issue and said he will grant it priority to have a prompt response.

Source: Centro de Conservación Cetacea

Read the letter here

Related National Geographic article “Chilean wind farm faces turbulence over whales”