What is the Blue Hole that is in Argentina?

The Chamber of Deputies gave half approval to the bill creating a marine protected area “Blue Hole”, in the area where the remains of the submarine ARA San Juan lie. Due to its extraordinary marine biodiversity, this area of ​​the Argentine continental shelf is considered a food “supermarket” for various marine species. and it’s crossed by conservationist, scientific and economic interests.

Boats of all sizes and flags ply the surface, fishing on the edge of international waters; Beneath that mass of deep, cold water are the remains of the submarine ARA San Juan and its 44 crew members.

The Blue Hole is an area in the ocean, 500 kilometers from the Gulf of San Jorge, between the provinces of Chubut and Santa Cruz, and covers an area of 148 thousand square kilometers of the seabedbordering the Exclusive Economic Zone, where Argentina exercises sovereign rights for the purposes of exploration and exploitation, conservation and administration of natural resources.

This area is the only one in which the 200-meter isobath (a cartographic representation) runs outside that exclusive zone. Consequently, the eastern part of the Blue Hole is in international waters.

Bid between the economy and biodiversity

The Blue Hole is an area of feeding of various species of great economic importance (such as hake, the Patagonian scallop and squid) and of many species of birds and mammals. But also other species of interest for the conservation, such as birds and marine mammals, also feed in the place at certain times of the year.

the abundant biological resources of the place make it register a intense foreign fishing activity, which focuses on catching squid. However, the impact of overfishing in biodiversity and food chains is largely unknown.

On the other hand, the largely unexplored underwater features attract the scientific Interest, besides the economic one. Although it is not the only thing: it is estimated that the area would also be rich in hydrocarbons. In 2021, the national government launched the offshore oil exploration. Reason for which, it is considered that with the protection of the entire Blue Hole area it would be impossible to extract them.

The Agujero Azul Benthic Marine Protected Area -its formal name- would be the first created in the Argentine Continental Shelf beyond 200 nautical miles and would allow the conservation of a system of submarine canyons on the continental slope, largely unknown, in addition to the care of vulnerable species and the spaces of refuge, reproduction and breeding of species.

The bill approved this Wednesday at dawn was promoted by the deputy Graciela Camano (Federal Interbloc) and had the backing of the front of allof United Provinces interblockof Left Front Unity and of federal meeting, the latter, the only block of Together for Change that supported the initiative. The rest of the opposition bloc did not vote for the project and asked that it return to the corresponding commission.

Los relatives of the victims of the ARA San Juan they criticized the opposition for not supporting and voting on the bill.

Manage the seabed

The Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Juan Cabandié, celebrated the half sanction obtained in Deputies: “We are one step away from having a law for our seabed, which will allow the conservation of its biodiversity and the protection of its resources”.

Meanwhile, the president of the National Parks Administration (APN), Lautaro Erratchu, assured: “The creation of this new protected area will give us the possibility of preserve and manage our seabed more efficiently and sustainably. In addition, we would be doubling the amount of marine hectares that National Parks manage today for their conservation.”

Finally, this protection zone is one of the five priority geographical areas established within the Pampa Azul Initiativewhich seeks to strengthen Argentine sovereignty over the sea, the sustainable use of marine assets, including the creation and management of marine protected areas.

After approval in the lower house, the bill went to the Senate, where it must be approved to finally become law.

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