Unknown Population of Blue Whales Discovered in Waters of Southern Chile

"It is really exciting," says Buchan. "It's fascinating because so little is known about this animal. It astounds me how little is known, how little we know about this area about these animals here but also blue whales all over the world. "

If the species is to survive and rebuild its stocks, the Gulf of Corcovado could be critical. But this pristine habitat here that survived almost unscathed through the 20th century is being invaded by industry, in particular salmon farms. Salmon are not native to the Southern Hemisphere, but about 25 years ago Norwegians discovered the cold waters of the South Pacific are ideal for farming salmon from the North Atlantic. Now Chile is about to overtake Norway as the biggest producer of salmon in the world — providing 60 percent of the salmon Americans eat. But at huge environmental costs: contaminating the waters with feed and harmful chemicals and spreading disease.

Keeping People, and Whales, Happy

It is not just the whales who are threatened by the salmon invasion. There is concern that the entire fragile eco-system is being destroyed. Which is why the Blue Whale Center, the World Wildlife Fund and others are lobbying the government of Chile to declare the Gulf of Corcovado — all 10 million acres of it — a Marine Protected Area. CLICK HERE to view a map of the proposed Marine Protected Area. That would allow traditional fishermen and salmon farming to continue, but would restrict growth and strictly monitoring environmental impact.

"It's absolutely extraordinary," says Cathy Plume of the World Wildlife Fund as she describes the incredible diversity of the ecosystem here, "we don't even know what's under these waters."

The World Wildlife Fund is looking at ways to balance the proposed protected area with the much-needed jobs in this remote region.

"If we don't control this area, the salmon industry will continue to grow here. Fishing will continue to grow here and you won't have the whales coming in here anymore, they won't have their food stocks, they won't be bringing their young in. We've got to keep that happening and the way to do that is just to create a marine protected area that's multiple use — keep people happy, and keep the whales happy."

Not just blue whales but also a population of Humpback Whales. Not nearly as big, but just as breathtaking. These waters are so rich with life and so unexplored the scientists continue to uncover new secrets of the sea here. Protecting the blue whale would protect all the other creatures here too.

"I love animals," says Hucke-Gaete, "I love the sea. Particularly I love whales. I usually work with species that have been very close to extinction and now they are recovering somehow. I like to think that they will recover fully someday and if I can help, if we can help, that's the best thing I can do in my life, just to right the wrongs. "

To give a species on the verge of extinction a second chance.

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