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Autení Island


Conservation benefit: New 772-square-mile permanent marine protected area

Community benefit: Solar-powered waste management center

Date Approved: 06.2019


This project protects ocean ecosystems, making coastal communities more economically and physically secure in the face of climate change.

The Sea of Chiloé, in southern Chile, has it all when it comes to marine biodiversity: Blue whales, the largest animals in the world; critically endangered right whales; humpback whales; sea lions and fur seal colonies covering rocky outcrops; Peale’s dolphins and the endemic Chilean dolphin. And those are just some of the mammals. More than 200 species of birds live in the Chiloé Archipelago, including the endemic Pincoya storm petrel and Magellanic penguins.

The Mapuche-Huilliche community of Autení Island is leading an effort to get to the government to create a large, permanent protected area in the Sea of Chiloé. Currently, the area has no protection.

This type of MPA is designed to benefit indigenous people, who will play a major role in its management. The proposed management plan calls for better fishing practices and a limit on overall fishing. It will also forbid new salmon farms, a key source of pollution. Ships of the Fisheries Service and the navy would patrol the area; indigenous artisanal fishermen would report violations.

As on many small islands, handling household and business waste on Autení is a serious problem. Salmon and mussel farming operations create plastic waste, and household garbage is also a problem.

The community requested a Seacology grant to attack the waste disposal problem on Autení and nearby Navahue Island. A grant will fund an integrated waste management system. There will be of trash collection points, training for community members, and a chipping machine powered by electricity from solar panels. From the island facility, compacted waste will go to a mainland recycling and disposal center.

Project Updates

February 2024

This project has made it much easier for the people of Autení Island to manage waste and handle recyclables with the shredding machine and trash and recycling collection points. The application to make the protected area an official permanent MPA for the Autení indigenous people is still making its way through the Chilean bureaucracy.

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June 2023

Our project partner is increasingly focused on education efforts and managing solid waste, mainly plastic. They also requested a change in the budget—using grant funds not for more equipment, but instead for a computer, printer, and other materials with which to produce educational materials.

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February 2022

The shredding machine, in the new the waste management center building, is now hooked up to the solar power electricity system and is operational. Our project partners have set up collection points for trash and recycling. They expect to finish up everything in the next few months.

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February 2021

Our project partners have set up collection points for trash and recycling. Due to the difficulty of travel during the pandemic, they have not yet gotten the shredder operating.

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June 2020

The shredding machine has arrived on the island, and our project partners built a storage building for the waste management center, on schedule.

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December 2019

The project has now received international recognition. The coordinator was invited to present during COP25 in Madrid (the annual global climate change conference) about the creation of the Marine Area for Native Peoples and the waste management project. This honor has increased pride in the community.

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November 2019

The project is off to an excellent start and is on schedule. Materials for the waste center were bought and shipped to the island, and construction began in November. It is expected to be completed by February 2020. Once it is, the community will acquire the solar energy kit, which should be installed in March.

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