- 1 Introduction to the Namuncurá Banco Burdwood Marine Protected Area
- 2 Geography
- 3 Biodiversity in Namuncurá Banco Burdwood
- 4 The Remains of the ARA General Belgrano
- 5 Research and Conservation
- 6 Tourism and Visits
- 7 The Role of the Marine Protected Area in the Local Community
- 8 International Cooperation Initiatives
- 9 The Future of the Namuncurá Banco Burdwood Marine Protected Area
- 10 Photo Gallery
- 11 Referencias
We invite you to dive into the depths of the Namuncurá Banco Burdwood Marine Protected Area, (known in Spanish as: Área Marina Protegida Namuncurá Banco Burdwood) a fascinating underwater sanctuary in Argentina, brimming with life and natural beauty. This splendid spot is an untouched haven of biodiversity that will capture your imagination and nourish your love for the ocean.
Introduction to the Namuncurá Banco Burdwood Marine Protected Area
The Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank Marine Protected Area is a maritime space of great importance in Argentina, located on the Burdwood Bank in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Covering approximately 28,000 km², it was established on August 1, 2013, through Law No. 26,875, comprising the Namuncurá Banco Burdwood I and Namuncurá Banco Burdwood II marine protected areas.
This territory is protected and is subject to dispute within the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf, beyond the jurisdiction of the provinces. It is divided into two designated areas as a marine national park and a marine national reserve, both of which are key categories for preserving its valuable biodiversity and marine ecosystems.
The Burdwood Bank, also known as the Namuncurá Bank, is a submarine plateau located in the Southwestern Atlantic Ocean. It lies approximately 150 km east of the Island of the States and 200 km south of the Falkland Islands. Situated on the northern edge of the Scotia Plate, it is an eastward extension of the Andes Mountain Range. It stretches east-west for 370 km, with its north-south width varying between 50 and 100 km. Depths range from 50 to 200 meters, and it is believed to have been an island during the first glacial period.
In 2008, the Argentine National Secretariat of Environment and Sustainable Development began evaluating the implementation of fishing protection measures on the Burdwood Bank. As a result, a total fishing prohibition area was established through Resolution CFP No. 18/2008 of the Federal Fishing Council. This area was defined by specific coordinates, and a permanent provision was issued to prohibit fishing activity within that zone.
The idea of establishing a protected area on the Burdwood Bank was promoted by the National Parks Administration. Patricia Gandini, President of the Administration’s Board and also a researcher at the National University of Southern Patagonia, was recognized for her project "Burdwood Aquatic Park" with the Leaders for a Living Planet award from the Argentine Wildlife Foundation. The main goal of the project was to protect an area with significant populations of fish species and contribute to fulfilling the target set by the Convention on Biological Diversity to protect 10% of national marine waters by 2020.
The creation of marine protected areas is backed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), ratified by Argentina in 1995. This convention obligates states to protect and preserve the marine environment, supporting the initiative to protect the Burdwood Bank and other marine areas in the country.
History and Establishment of the Marine Area
On November 21, 2012, the Chamber of Deputies gave initial approval to the bill for the creation of the Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank Marine Protected Area. Subsequently, the Senate transformed this project into Law No. 26,875 on July 3, 2013, which was enacted on August 1, 2013, through Decree No. 1058/2013.
The law outlines its objectives in Article 3 and defines the zoning of the protected area in Articles 4 and 5, creating three zones: the Core Zone, the Buffer Zone, and the Transition Zone. Each zone has different purposes and regulations regarding permitted activities and environmental protection.
The national Executive Power was authorized to designate the enforcing authority of the law, and the Administration Council of the Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank Marine Protected Area was established. This council, composed of representatives from various entities, is responsible for issuing internal regulations and the management plan of the protected area.
The Chief of Cabinet of Ministers was designated as the enforcing authority through Decree No. 720/2014, and the Namuncurá Program was created to support the implementation of the law. The Administration Council held its first meeting on August 15, 2014.
The Management Plan of the Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank Marine Protected Area was approved through Resolution 10/2016 of the Administration Council, providing guidance for the management and conservation of the protected area.
Dispute with the United Kingdom
The establishment of the Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank Marine Protected Area has led to disputes between Argentina and the United Kingdom. According to Argentine legislation, the protected area is entirely within its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. However, the eastern third and small areas in the north are included in the Outer Conservation Zone of the Falkland Islands, established by the United Kingdom and rejected by Argentina.
The disputed sector cuts through the Transition Zone, dividing the protected area to the east. The central-northern zone lies within the boundaries of oil exploration areas granted by the British government of the Falkland Islands, while the western extremity falls within areas granted by Argentina.
The Falkland Islands government has welcomed the establishment of the marine protected area on the Burdwood Bank, but only within the area they consider to be Argentine, rejecting its application in the sector they claim as their own.
This dispute reflects the differing positions of Argentina and the United Kingdom regarding sovereignty and rights in the region, posing additional challenges for the management and conservation of the marine protected area.
Integration of the Namuncurá Banco Burdwood I and Namuncurá Banco Burdwood II Areas
The integration of the protected areas Namuncurá Banco Burdwood I and Namuncurá Banco Burdwood II, established by Laws 26,875 and 27,490, has resulted in the creation of a single protected area with three management categories: Marine National Reserve, Marine National Park, and Strict Marine National Reserve. These categories aim to ensure the conservation and protection of the valuable marine ecosystems present in the region, promoting a balance between biodiversity preservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
This marvelous marine park extends over a variety of marine terraces, underwater mountains, and abyssal plains, creating a diversity of habitats for marine life in the Patagonian Shelf ecoregion.
Waters and Ocean Circulation
The waters of Burdwood Bank belong to the subpolar oceanographic regime and are surrounded by a continental slope that reaches depths of up to 4,000 meters. Its location near the Falkland Islands interrupts the flow of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, generating local anticyclonic circulations that enrich the waters in the area. This convergence of ocean currents creates a significant concentration of nutrients, resulting in high productivity and biodiversity in the area. Due to the deep waters surrounding it, the bank is relatively isolated and has become a unique habitat for benthic species and cold-water corals, including highly relevant endemisms.
The steep edges of the marine zone generate vertical water movements known as "upwellings," which bring nutrient-rich deep waters to the surface, promoting the growth of phytoplankton.
In the southern area of Burdwood Bank, the slope includes deep-sea bottoms (4,000 meters) and underwater canyons that harbor high biodiversity, with vulnerable benthic species forming three-dimensional habitats.
Biodiversity in Namuncurá Banco Burdwood
The emblem of the Namuncurá Banco Burdwood Marine Protected Area represents its unique underwater geography. A submerged plateau stands out, giving the area its name, located at a depth of 200 meters and bordered to the south by a slope descending to 4,000 meters. Two groups of animals stand out in this zone: cold-water corals and notothenid fish.
Cold-water corals form a unique and highly diverse ecosystem. Alongside sponges, ascidians, and bryozoans, they create a three-dimensional structure known as an "animal forest."
Notothenid fish, on the other hand, have developed adaptations to survive in temperatures close to 0°C, such as fat accumulation and the presence of special proteins that prevent the freezing of their blood. An outstanding example is the Patagonian toothfish, a commercially important species that inhabits deeper waters as it ages.
The nutrient-rich waters of the park sustain a mosaic of algae and aquatic plants that play a fundamental role in the marine ecosystem, providing food and shelter for countless marine species, creating a vital food chain for the area’s biodiversity. Their presence contributes to the health and resilience of the ecosystem, adding beauty and color to the park’s waters.
From seabirds like petrels and albatrosses to diverse species of fish and marine mammals like sea lions and orcas, the park offers an incredible diversity of life. The waters of Burdwood Bank are home to birds such as various species of albatrosses, petrels, Magellanic penguins, yellow-crested penguins, papua penguins, and king penguins, as well as pinnipeds like fur seals and sea lions. Southern elephant seals also inhabit the area. There are many species that inhabit it, similar to the Yaganes Marine Protected Area.
In the protected area, it is possible to spot southern dolphins and dusky dolphins, as the waters of Burdwood serve as a migratory route for the southern right whale, sperm whale, pilot whale, and orca.
Due to the high levels of chlorophyll present in the Marine Protected Area, favorable conditions for fishing productivity are created in the zone. The surrounding areas are important breeding and spawning sites for species such as the hake, Patagonian toothfish, and Fuegian sardine. The species community in Burdwood Bank is dominated especially by the Patagonian notothenid (Patagonotothen guntheri), the Patagonian toothfish, and various species of rays. It is also a crucial habitat for seabirds such as the black-browed albatross, wandering albatross, white-chinned petrel, and king penguin, as well as marine mammals like the southern elephant seal, southern dolphin, sperm whales, and fin whales, among other species.
The seabed is mostly covered by a wide variety of sponges and other colonial organisms, such as bryozoans, soft corals, and hard cold-water corals at greater depths. These form an underwater ecosystem known as the "animal forest." Within this environment, numerous invertebrate species reside, including snails, octopuses, and starfish, as well as fish that serve as food for birds, marine mammals, and demersal fish.
The Remains of the ARA General Belgrano
In the depths of the Namuncurá Banco Burdwood Marine Protected Area rest the remains of the ARA General Belgrano, an Argentine battleship sunk during the Falklands War. This location becomes a site of historical interest and an underwater memorial that honors those who fell in the conflict, providing a silent testimony to those momentous events in the country’s history.
Research and Conservation
Ongoing Research and Conservation Programs
The park is the focal point of numerous research and conservation programs aimed at preserving its biodiversity and ensuring its resilience in the face of climate change and other threats.
In February 2015, the Namuncurá/Burdwood Bank Marine Protected Area 2015 Campaign took place, involving researchers from CADIC-CONICET, the National Institute of Fisheries Development (INIDEP), and the Argentine Naval Prefecture. During the campaign, a rescue coast guard vessel and a remotely operated underwater vehicle were used to monitor the water and assess hydrocarbon contamination, collect phytoplankton and zooplankton samples, and conduct studies on seabirds. Additionally, the underwater bed in the core zone was filmed at a depth of 60 meters.
In April 2017, the CONICET’s research vessel ARA Puerto Deseado embarked on a new research campaign in the area as part of the Pampa Azul project. The goal of this campaign was to collect samples from the seabed for scientific studies and to deepen the knowledge of this protected area.
Threats to Biodiversity and Their Addressing
Threats like overfishing and pollution are ongoing concerns. The park is taking active measures to mitigate these threats and promote a healthy ecosystem.
Tourism and Visits
The park offers a variety of tours and permitted activities for visitors, always following rules and regulations to protect its rich biodiversity.
The Role of the Marine Protected Area in the Local Community
Impact on Local Fishing Communities
The park plays a vital role in local fishing communities, providing employment opportunities and contributing to the sustainable development of the region.
Environmental Education and Community Involvement
The park’s environmental education initiatives focus on engaging the local community and visitors, fostering greater respect and appreciation for the ocean and its inhabitants.
International Cooperation Initiatives
Thanks to collaborations with international organizations, the park has been able to strengthen its marine conservation capacity and better address global environmental challenges.
The Future of the Namuncurá Banco Burdwood Marine Protected Area
With ongoing projects to enhance its infrastructure and increase conservation efforts, the future looks promising. It’s a place deserving of visitation and protection for generations to come.
- United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (pdf version).
- Ley 26875 (Spanish).
- Decreto 720/2014 (Spanish).
- Resolución Nº 600/2014 (Spanish).
- Ley n.° 23968 (Spanish).
- Ley 27037 (Spanish).
- Decreto n.° 402/2017 (Spanish).
- Decreto n.º 888/2019 (Spanish).
- "Claims and potential claims to maritime jurisdiction in the South Atlantic and Southern Oceans by Argentina and the UK". International Boundaries Research Unit, Durham University. (pdf version)
- Los kelpers rechazaron la creación de un área protegida (Spanish).
- Campaña Área Marina Protegida Namuncurá / Banco Burdwood 2015 (Spanish).
- Promueven la creación de Parques Nacionales Marinos (Spanish).