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Uruguay will begin bilateral conversations to create transboundary MPAs along the West-Atlantic continental shelf.

The Rio de la Plata flows into the Atlantic Ocean between Argentina and Uruguay. Rich in nutrients, the fresh river water meets productive seawater upwelling onto the oceanic shelf. The result is high biodiversity, and that has attracted unsustainable fishing pressure. Pristine deep-water coral reefs in excess of 400 metres traverse the marine shelf between Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. Shark and ray species thrive, with more than 100 species feeding and reproducing along Uruguay’s coastline. Sealions, sea turtles, whales, dolphins, and huge schools of pelagic fish rely on this productivity for their survival.   

The Uruguayan fishing fleet is small in comparison to its neighbours but is poorly regulated. Many boats target sharks, exporting fins through the port of Montevideo. In fact, more than 90 per cent of fish caught in Uruguay’s waters are exported. Perhaps for this reason, the society’s awareness of the ocean environment is low, and marine conservation has been generally ignored until now.  

The Uruguayan government has announced its intention to protect 10 per cent of its Exclusive Economic Zone in the short term, and 30 per cent by 2030, in line with global conservation commitments. Blue Marine is working with local partner NGO, Mar Azul (Wirapita), the Ministry of Environment, and in-country technology developers to designate effective marine protected areas (MPAs) that will safeguard and restore marine life in Uruguay’s waters.  

In 2023, we worked towards the designation of MPAs to highly protect several key biodiversity areas. We also rolled out marine education programmes in coastal schools, encouraging shark-fishing communities, from the bottom-up, to reduce shark catch and target sustainable fish stocks.  

With backing from the government and excellent partners on the ground, we are confident that Uruguay will protect its marine life and begin bilateral conversations to create transboundary MPAs along the West-Atlantic continental shelf. 


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