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Uruguay

Queguay Islands

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Conservation benefit: Enhanced legal protection for 6,326-acre islands

Community benefit: Technical help necessary to request protected status; tourist awareness program; tour guide training

Date Approved: 06.2018

River/Lake

This project protects freshwater habitat around a river or lake.

The Queguay Islands are located where the Queguay River flows into the Uruguay River, which forms the border between Uruguay and Argentina. These islands are important breeding sites for fish and nesting areas for migratory birds, including skimmers and neotropical terns. Rare plant species are also found there.

The islands are uninhabited but close to the towns of Colón, Argentina and Paysandú, Uruguay. They face threats from illegal logging, poaching (of fish and capybaras), dogs, solid waste, and unregulated tourism.

For more than 20 years, a local NGO called Gensa Paysandú has promoted conservation of the islands. Now, it wants to petition the government to include the islands in the National System of Protected Areas. This will bring national recognition of the islands’ environmental significance and more regulation of activities there. There will be restrictions on vehicles and better enforcement of hunting and fishing limits.

Preparing a formal request for this enhanced protection, however, requires data and reports from botanists and zoologists. A Seacology grant will pay to hire the needed expertise. This is similar to a project in Koldita, Chile, where an indigenous community used a Seacology grant to hire biologists and anthropologists to write an application for marine protected status.

A grant will also fund an outreach campaign, with videos, social media, and other methods, to raise environmental awareness among visitors to the islands. Our partner will put up signs near nesting sites, warning that pets are not allowed. Finally, the group will also invest in training for local tour guides. Trained guides will follow responsible tourism practices and form part of a monitoring network.

Project Updates

June 2020

Our partner NGO completed the project under budget and will use the extra funds to create pamphlets on island biodiversity, to distribute in local schools. They have put up signs on beaches where birds, particularly the iconic black skimmer, nest in the dunes, warning visitors to keep dogs away from nests.

They have submitted an application, with supporting documents on the importance of the diverse fish and bird populations, to make the islands part of the National System of Protected Areas.

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December 2019

Volunteers from our partner NGO are monitoring the beaches in person, explaining to visitors why they should respect the rules designed to protect vulnerable bird nests in the dunes. Other outreach efforts include public workshops on island protection. They have also made a short video about the islands, which they will share on social media and use in the application for protected status.

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May 2019

Seacology’s Executive Director Duane Silverstein visited the islands in April with field representative Cecilia Suárez and came away impressed with the organization we’re working with there. Its members and its director are volunteers, deeply committed to protecting the islands by getting them official protected status and by curbing damaging practices by tourists.

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December 2018

Project leaders began by focusing on tourists. Big signs have been erected on beaches where birds, particularly the iconic black skimmer, nest in the dunes. The community has also created brochures to distribute locally and to visitors, explaining how and why it’s important to protect bird habitat, and is working on a video. They are in touch with experts who are interested in working with the protected area application.

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