Yaganes Marine Protected Area

A hidden universe of vibrant creatures, underwater forests of algae, and mysterious seafloors await you in Argentina’s Yaganes Marine Protected Area (in Spanish: Área Marina Protegida Yaganes). Located at the southernmost tip of the country, this incredible marine reserve is an underrated gem of biodiversity and a must-visit for any nature enthusiast. Immerse yourself in the enchanting world of Yaganes and discover why it’s an unmissable destination for nature and adventure enthusiasts.


Yaganes Marine Protected Area

History of the Yaganes Marine Protected Area

Established by Law No. 27490, enacted on December 12, 2018, and promulgated two days later by Decree No. 1137/2018 by President Mauricio Macri. The Yaganes Marine Protected Area falls within the framework of the National System of Marine Protected Areas (SNAMP), established by Law No. 27037, granting it a surface area of 69,000 km2.

Importance of Marine Protected Areas

Marine protected areas play a crucial role in conserving biodiversity and the health of our oceans. They provide safe havens for threatened species and are fundamental tools for scientific research and monitoring climate change.

Management of the Marine Protected Area (MPA)

Comprising three sectors with different management categories. The first sector is the Yaganes Marine National Reserve, covering the waters above the bed and subsurface in two delimited areas. The second sector is the Yaganes Marine National Park, including the waters above the bed and subsurface located west of the 64° W meridian and not encompassed by the marine national reserve. The third sector is the Yaganes Strict Marine National Reserve, covering the continental shelf of the areas included in the marine national park and the marine national reserve.

The management of the Yaganes Marine Protected Area is divided into different categories to ensure effective protection of its marine resources. The seafloors are designated as a Strict Marine National Reserve, meaning they are subject to strict protection, and any extractive activities are prohibited in this zone.

Regarding the water column, different management categories have been assigned. Two sectors are designated as Marine National Reserves, implying that conservation measures and restrictions are implemented to ensure the preservation of ecosystems and biodiversity in these areas. In the third sector, the category of Marine National Park is established, also implying special protection and additional restrictions to sustainably conserve and manage the marine resources and natural values of the zone.

These management categories reflect the commitment to preserve and protect the different components of the Yaganes Marine Protected Area, both the seafloors and the water column. The combination of conservation measures, restrictions, and regulations helps ensure the integrity and health of this valuable marine ecosystem.

Geographical Location

The Yaganes Marine Protected Area is situated at the southernmost tip of Argentina, in a strategic location, at the intersection of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans in the Beagle Channel. It lies south of the Great Island of Tierra del Fuego and borders Chile at the international boundary. This marine area is part of the Drake Passage, also known as the Sea of Hoces, and falls within Argentina’s exclusive economic zone.

Its northernmost point is located 90 miles southeast of the city of Ushuaia, while its southernmost point is 430 miles from Base Esperanza in Antarctica.

Regarding its boundaries, the protected area extends eastward to the line marking the end of Argentina’s Exclusive Economic Zone. To the west, it borders the maritime boundary between Argentina and Chile. It’s important to note that most of these waters are within the maritime projection of Chilean islands, such as Hornos Island and others in the Hermite, Diego Ramírez, Deceit, Evout, Barnevelt, Nueva groups, among others.

The distinctive feature of Yaganes is its crucial role as a physical and biological link between the two oceans. This is largely due to the influence of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, a powerful marine current that circulates around the Antarctic continent. The presence of this current helps maintain a unique and vibrant marine ecosystem in the area.

Description of Its Marine Geography

The region is known for its rich biodiversity, with seafloors ranging from sandy plains to complex rocky reefs and algae forests, all home to a wealth of marine life. It encompasses a wide variety of marine environments, including the continental slope and deep ocean basins exceeding 4,000 meters in depth. In this area, underwater canyons and seamounts can be found, adding a fascinating dimension to the diverse marine landscapes of the marine ecoregion of the channels and fjords of southern Chile.

Meaning of the Name "Yaganes"

The term "Yaganes" originates from the homonymous ethnic group. The Yaganes were the original inhabitants of the islands in the region and the surrounding waters. They were an indigenous people who navigated these waters in canoes and had a close relationship with the marine environment.

The name "Yaganes" is used as a tribute and recognition to this ancient ethnicity and its historical connection to these lands and waters. By bearing their name, the protected area honors the memory and ancestral presence of the Yaganes in the region, highlighting the cultural and historical importance of this indigenous community.


Iconic Species

The Yaganes emblem is represented by submerged seamounts and underwater canyons, two of the prominent high-biodiversity environments found in this area. These elements symbolize the richness and variety of marine life within the protected area.

One of the iconic species in the area is the patagonian grenadier. This species has a late reproductive maturity and can be found in different coastal habitats, such as continental shelves, shelf edges, and offshore banks, at depths of up to 1,809 meters. Patagonian grenadiers can reach a maximum length of 357 cm and are viviparous. They prefer temperate and cold waters.

In the skies of the area, two species of albatross can be spotted: the wandering albatross and the gray-headed albatross. The wandering albatross is especially notable, as it has the largest wingspan of any bird in the world, exceeding three and a half meters. These majestic birds provide an impressive sight and add a touch of grandeur to the marine ecosystem of Yaganes.

Both the patagonian grenadier and the albatross species face challenges and are considered vulnerable. Incidental capture in trawl fishing nets poses a significant threat to their survival. These fishing activities can have a negative impact on the populations of these species, underscoring the importance of implementing appropriate conservation measures and fishing restrictions within the protected area to safeguard these species and their habitat.

Prominent Marine Species

The Yaganes Marine Protected Area is home to a wide variety of marine species, from the blue whale, the largest creature on the planet, to the Magellanic penguin, an icon of the region.

Flora and Fauna

Yaganes hosts a wealth of endemic flora and fauna. Here, you will encounter the Illex squid and the Patagonian king crab, native species that serve as cornerstones of local ecosystems.

The Yaganes MPA is a critical habitat for several commercial species, such as southern hake, Argentine hake, and black hake. These protected areas play a crucial role in conserving the spawning and breeding sites of these species, ensuring their reproduction and population sustainability.

A highly visited area by seabirds, particularly species of albatrosses including the gray-headed albatross, wandering albatross, white-chinned petrel, and yellow-crested penguin, similar to those species present in the Namuncurá Banco Burdwood Marine Protected Area. These birds find a favorable habitat for feeding and breeding in the area, adding stunning beauty and diversity to the marine ecosystem.

Marine mammals also find a vital refuge in Yaganes. It is home to the southern elephant seal, dusky dolphin, sperm whales, orcas, and various whale species, including fin whales and sei whales. These magnificent animals find suitable conditions in the area for feeding, breeding, and resting, contributing to the richness and balance of the marine ecosystem.

The presence of these commercial species, seabirds, and marine mammals in the Yaganes Marine Protected Area underscores the importance of its conservation and protection, ensuring the survival of these species and the maintenance of biodiversity in the region.

Endangered Species

The area also serves as a vital refuge for several endangered species, including the black-browed albatross and the south American fur seal.


Yaganes is home to a variety of underwater ecosystems that exhibit astonishing biological diversity, ranging from algae reefs that provide a habitat for countless species to sandy plains that house creatures adapted to this environment. Each of these ecosystems is a critical piece of the biodiversity puzzle.

The combination of different depths and geological features provides unique habitats for a wide range of marine species. From creatures found in sandy bottoms to those inhabiting complex rocky reefs, every corner of Yaganes harbors an abundance of marine life.

The presence of these deep and biologically diverse marine environments in the Yaganes Marine Protected Area highlights its value as a sanctuary for marine life conservation and represents a fascinating destination for those who wish to explore and marvel at the mysteries of the seafloors.

Importance of Ecosystems for Marine and Terrestrial Life

These ecosystems not only support the rich marine life of Yaganes but also play a crucial role for migratory birds and terrestrial species in the nearby Falkland Islands and Isla Grande of Tierra del Fuego.

Scientific Research

Current Research Projects

Since its designation as a Marine Protected Area, Yaganes has been the focus of numerous scientific studies. Ongoing research aims to gain a better understanding of its unique biodiversity and the impacts of climate change.

Important Scientific Discoveries

These projects have led to significant discoveries, such as the identification of new species and a deeper understanding of the effects of global warming on marine ecosystems.

Conservation and Protection

Threats to Biodiversity and Ecosystems in the Area

The area faces several challenges, including climate change, illegal fishing, and maritime traffic. These threats endanger the biodiversity and health of Yaganes’ ecosystems.

Current Conservation Measures

To address these issues, various conservation measures are in place, such as fishing bans and restrictions on maritime traffic. Local authorities and conservation organizations work together to protect and preserve this valuable ecosystem.

Organizations Involved in Yaganes Protection

Organizations like the Wildlife Foundation of Argentina and the Government of Argentina are actively involved in the protection and conservation of the Yaganes Marine Protected Area.

Tourism and Activities

In terms of permitted activities, throughout the entire protected area, the seafloor and subsurface are considered strict reserves, allowing only scientific activities. On the other hand, the waters above the seafloor have different classifications. The portion farther from Tierra del Fuego Island, covering 55,600 square kilometers, is designated as a national park, where scientific, educational, and tourist activities are authorized. The portion of the water column closer to Tierra del Fuego Island, with an area of 13,400 square kilometers, is classified as a reserve, allowing sustainable fishing along with activities permitted in the national park sector.

Education and Awareness

Area-Related Educational Programs

Numerous educational programs exist to raise awareness about the importance of marine conservation in Yaganes. These programs educate the public about the wealth of biodiversity in the area and the significance of its protection.

How the Public Can Contribute to Conservation

The public can contribute to Yaganes’ conservation in various ways, from making donations to conservation organizations to participating in volunteer programs and following regulations when visiting the area.

Future Projections

Future Plans

Future plans for Yaganes include expanding scientific research, developing educational programs, and enhancing conservation measures to ensure the long-term protection of this biodiversity sanctuary.

Anticipated Area Changes Due to Climate Change

Climate change is a real and present threat to Yaganes. Increasing temperatures and changing marine current patterns are expected to impact the area’s ecosystems. Conservation and research are key to understanding and mitigating these effects.

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