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PROYECTO VISTA AL MAR
"Participative Study and Monitoring on Cetacean Diversity and Occurrence in Chañaral Island"

SPANISH: Esta página está en inglés como parte del compromiso en apoyo a la difusión internacional de las actividades desarrolladas por los habitantes de Chañaral de Aceituno.

Chile does not only have a great marine mammals diversity but also is a long country with a complex geography. Often there are areas with no scientific effort to assess the marine mammals occurrence. CMMR Leviathan has included creative efforts to solve this problem, by designing and building an autonomous sailboat for research purposes, is working on remote monitoring technology but there is a solution much simpler. Since 20 years the founders of our Corporation have been working together with local fishermen communities. They are every day at seas and their experience deserves our respect.

At the CMMR Leviathan we strongly believe that science is a tool and not a purpose. As a tool it has to serve to the people that need answers the most. We have been pioneers in Chile in developing Whalewatching programs with local communities based on our long term scientific programs. This information is valuable for us as well as for the tour operators in the coast. We believe that we have found a way to help each other by working together. 

We are glad to present you the first step of the pilot project "Participative Study and Monitoring on Cetacean Diversity and Occurrence in Chañaral Island" or "Vista al Mar".

Concept

This project is a simple but important step to setup a system for data collecting involving the new members of the local community in sustainable tourism procedures. The local fishermen as tour-operators are taking digital photos of the cetaceans and wildlife in general, the screen of a portable GPS and the tourists during their trips. The photos are able to be shared with the tourists improving the local tourism services and provides me with valuable information about the cetacean occurrence (as diversity and spatio-temporal distribution) and the whalewatching practices. In return, the operators will receive free training, publicity and the equipment in donation.

A high resolution photo camera with underwater housing, a portable and waterproof GPS, a desktop computer with Linux and several accessories are delivered to the local community. This first time to the local inhabitants of Caleta Chañaral de Aceituno, Region of Atacama, northern coast of Chile. Several workshops were successfully developed on how to use these equipment and subjects like responsible whalewatching and tourism management.

A contract is agreed between the community and CMMR Leviathan on which basically the community receives and become the owner of the equipment with the mission of taking photos of marine wildlife and the screen of a GPS. on each event. The photos are shared with CMMR Leviathan for its study but is not allowed to commercialize that material belonging to the local community. The analysis conclusions are directly shared with the community and every paper using that data includes an acknowledgement to the authors of the graphic material. I the other hand, Leviathan contributes to promote the services and products of the local community on its website and contacting tour agencies in Chile and abroad. We know  that success often comes with the risk of replacement by bigger stakeholders. We want through this project, to help the local community to improve their services and products to become more competitive, keep their land and if possible to offer their services to the tour agencies instead of becoming replaced by bigger stakeholders.

Goals of "Vista al Mar":

  • To diminish “tourism piracy” by involving more local inhabitants in an agreement to respect procedures to reduce the negative impacts of the (yet non regulated) whalewatching activities.
  • To implement a system to retrieve information on the local cetacean occurrence and tourism practices with the participation of the local community.
  • To analyze the correlation between the known cetacean distribution in the area, the sites used by the tour operators, the species they approach to, and to develop a preliminary assessment of the local tour-operator's cetacean sighting rate.
  • To share technology that can improve the local tourism product and services, making more competitive the local community and this way helping to diminish the risk of “replacement” by bigger stakeholders that do not necessarily share the same commitment to responsible practices.
  • To promote the operators with better practices on responsible whalewatching.

Welcome to see the ocean, welcome to "Vista al Mar"

Welcome to visit Chile and its natural resources in company of the people that live at the field and are committed to environment protection as well as scientific research. With your visit you are supporting the CMMR Leviathan's effort to promote responsible whalewatching, respectful science, and social communities that are willing to improve their standars each day to bring you a great experience. Do not hesitate to contact us.

Area of Study

Chañaral de Aceituno is a small town located in the coast of the northern part of Chile, in the third region of Atacama in South America. The access is from Santiago to La Serena city (430km) and from there to the coast through Punta de Choros (200km) as the southern access or Domeiko as the northern access (280km from La Serena). Do not hesitate to contact us if you need assistance.

How to participate

To help us is very simple. Just visit the town and enjoy your experience while preferring to contract the services of the members of the community linked to the project (all the training is free for the community but not all of them are participating). Then please bring us some feedback by sharing your thoughts with us through the forms provided below on this page. Also, you can contribute with the project directly is you have cameras, GPS or you want your brand to be linked to this effort.

The local members linked to the responsible tourism practices are:

Mr Pascual Iribarren, Juan Campusano, Luis González, Patricio Ortiz, Hector Oyarzun, Rebeca
Ovalle, Pascual Morales, Cristian Torres and Aurora Campusano. By preferring them, more members of the community will join us participating on the free workshops and training provided by CMMR Leviathan.

Local Services

The small town, has grew and now offers everything you need to have a great experience. If you like to explore small towns, wildlife, desert and ocean, to know the local stories and enjoy great sea food, this is your trip.

Groseries: if you travel light, do not worry. Among others, Mr. Angel Marin, our local Maritime Authority, is the owner with his wife, of a great store where you would find everything you need.

Food:  Among several alternatives, Mr Jony Peña, has built the best restaurant in town. Great environment, and nothing fresher than to be at a couple feet of the port where the best sea food arrives every day. Try the local avaloni, or "crazies" better known in town as "locos". Or the different species of fish you will never find in a big market. Jony is also the main authority of the town. His phone, +56 9 91658455. Be prepared.., in Chile we eat a lot and only the best food.

Accommodation: Several members of the community have built houses or extra rooms for rental. Ranging from a house with about 10 beds and a full kitchen, to a small room, you will find what you need. The community helps each other so, they will check the room availability for you. We recommend you to arrange your accommodation with time, Also, Ms Aurora, aside the local market of Mr. Marin, can help you with everything and you will wonder how she manages to have so many weird plants of the desert at home.

Boat trips: In the earlier days, each owner of a boat was competing for the tourists. Now the community has setup a small association so there is no competition, The president of the local Tourism Association is Mr. Captain Patricio Ortiz (phone +56 9 85808276). He is well known for his squeals to find the whales and dolphins, and his always happy attitude. He has learned and improved directly form our scientific studies for about 20 years.  He can bring your life trip or help you finding whom will do it.

Others: the local community is bade by the last members of the Chango ethnic, and families that work on olive agriculture. So, you will find a mixture between agriculture, fisheries and ecotourism all together. Do not forget to get your local bottle of prime olive oil. The fishermen are open to go diving with you, to show you their work at seas harvesting kelp, crab, fish and molluscs. They manage an area of coast with great success. So, enjoy your food.
Handcrafts are now a growing matter since Ms Rebeca Ovalle (Phone: +56 9 88625976) became a member of the community. Many members of the community contribute with this work.

A graphic sample
all these photos have been taken by the local community members. For some, this was the first time to handle a camera and they did it greatly and underwater! Ask Mr. Pascual!

A local seafood dish prepared  with tomato, lettuce and potatoes, with tasty “locos” (Concholepas concholepas).

001.jpg Mr Jony invested in a restaurant and actually is the President of the local community.

He is also a great cook and prepares all the dishes of his restaurant.
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The area is part of the Chango culture. Some of the inhabitants are descendants of that ethnic.

Among the handcraft they make is the model of the floating catamaran that use to be made with the skin of two sea lions inflated as the pontoons of a Zodiac boat.

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The main herbivore of the area is the Guanaco.

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A couple of “rollizos”, a local fish that is very tasty and they use to say resembles to a “submarine with the windows opened”.

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On top, a “loco”, and below a small flounder fish. Mr. Pascual, during the review of the photos at night in front of all the students said “this is the salad on top and the main dish below”.

Locos are related to “abalone”, and are the main product of this town. The local fishermen have assigned an area where they manage this resource instead of harvesting it from everywhere.

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This is what the local inhabitants name “maisillo”, corresponding to the groups of eggs from “locos”.

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One of the fishermen divers harvesting kelp from their managed area. He has problems in his legs due to bad techniques on diving when he was younger. However he continues diving and is one of the best in town.

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The best crab, “jaiba mora”, living between the rocks sharing its habitat with some shrimps.

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With practice, now the fishermen are using more features of the camera, as macro to take this photo of a small fish over a rock.

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Or these small shrimps living on the small spaces between the rocks associated with kelp.

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Ship leaking diesel in a marine reserve. Since several years this threat is known but still is not addressed to prevent a disaster.

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