WCS Argentina

Patagonia Coastal Zone

Patagonia on the Southern tip of South America is home to one of the last remaining biologically rich coastal frontiers. Extending 2000 miles from the Pampas in the North to Drake's Passage beyond Tierra del Fuego in the South, the pristine shores of Argentine Patagonia are washed by a cool biologically-rich ocean current.  Drawing nourishment from this current, large concentrations of marine birds and mammals gather to breed and rest on shore. Colonies of Magellanic penguins, large rookeries of southern elephant seals, and over one third of the remaining population of southern right whales, are but some of the species of birds and mammals that inhabit this coast. These colonies are the essence of biodiversity of the coast of Patagonia, the hallmark for which the region is known.

Conservation Challenges

Patagonia is a development frontier and the rapid changes that are taking place in the region are affecting its wildlife. Towns and cities continue to expand on the coast, fed by commercial fishing, the production of oil and to a lesser degree, tourism. The human population increase in the region is twice the national average as newcomers arrive in search of jobs.

Besides over-fishing and by-catch, threats to wildlife on the coast include growing pollution from urban and industrial waste and the potential of oil spills from wells drilled at sea. Even excessive tourism in some places is cause for concern. Invasive species, emerging diseases and now, climate change, are some of the newer challenges facing the birds and mammals that inhabit the shores Patagonia and forage in the Southwest Atlantic.

Conservation Approach

All WCS’s efforts in Argentina are decided, led and carried out by Argentines. The organization provides the resources and support it can to its formally registered Representation in Argentina so the latter can carry out its in-country activities. We work with the Federal and provincial governments of Argentina and with local non-governmental organizations to help find and implement solutions to conservation challenges. Our efforts are science-based; we also actively seek involvement of local communities in coastal zone management planning as a basis for responsible long-term coastal resources use and conservation.


To preserve the spectacular concentrations of wildlife on the coast of Patagonia, and ensure that populations of marine birds and mammals remain viable and healthy.


  • Define conservation priorities, develop strategies and provide stewardship for the conservation of coastal wildlife.
  • Design support and conduct priority research for the conservation of coastal wildlife.
  • Work with local governments and partner organizations to strengthen management of coastal wildlife using science to guide our efforts.
  • Engage local communities and increase awareness of the value of coastal wildlife to develop constituency for conservation.
  • Provide training on wildlife conservation for wildlife managers, researchers, wardens, teachers, tour guides, fisheries observers and other decision makers.


Once visited only by whalers and sealers that slaughtered the marine birds and mammals of coastal Patagonia for fur, feathers and oil, these wildlife spectacles are now the basis of a rapidly growing wildlife-based tourist industry. However, in areas with insufficient protection human disturbance can disrupt breeding and cause colonies to be abandoned.  Furthermore, overfishing in the SouthAtlantic, pollution by oil spills from the transport and drilling of offshore oil, a heavy emphasis on industrial development and mining combined with weak coastal zone management are serious threats to the future of this biologically diverse natural corridor.


WCS has been helping Argentina protect marine birds and mammals on the coast of Patagonia since the 1970s. We have helped build local conservation leadership, supported conservation research, raised significant counterpart funding from international funding agencies, raised community awareness, strengthened local voices for wildlife, and changed behaviors concerning the use and care of coastal living resources and improved wildlife management in local government.


During the 1990s, working with local partner NGOs, we helped Argentina greatly reduce oil pollution at sea, which used to kill over 40,000 penguins each year. Nowadays, fewer than 1,000 birds are affected.


Between 2000 and 2013 alone, WCS played a key role in the establishment of five new marine parks on the coast administrated by the National Parks Service of Argentina and the provinces of Chubut and Santa Cruz. Wildlife colonies that have formal protection rose from 50% to over 75% during this period.

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WCS Argentina
Amenabar 1595 piso 2 oficina 19, C1426AKC CABA

Key Staff

Guillermo Harris
Country Director
Pablo Yorio
Coastal Argentina Program Seabirds
All Patagonia Coastal Zone Staff >>

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