At 660 kilometers from Chile’s mainland, the fishermen of Juan Fernández have reason to be proud: their most famous product, the lobster, is not only recognized for its quality worldwide, but also for the way the fishermen have sustainably managed this resource for over 100 years. This archipelago’s marine environment is unique. Its high endemism of fish, corals and other species coexist in the midst of an exceptional geography, where numerous seamounts provide the perfect conditions for the development of amazing ecosystems.
Aware of the richness of their surroundings, the archipelago’s residents felt the need to search for a means of protection that would allow them to preserve this ecosystem and protect it from the threat of bottom trawling. This is how Oceana began to support the community by collecting scientific information in order to initially stop bottom trawling in seamounts. This came to an end in 2013, when Chile became the first country in the world to protect each of the seamounts located in national waters from this fishing practice.
With this law enacted, Oceana set out to plan a new exploratory journey to verify the condition of seamounts that had been most affected by industrial fishing. The damage caused was demonstrated with visual documentation and a complete diagnosis was made of the state of fauna and flora in the trawled seamounts of Juan Fernández.
The first systematic record of marine fauna found 20 meters deep in Robinson Crusoe and Santa Clara Islands was made in 2014, documenting the biomass of endemic fish such as splended perch and lobsters.
In 2015, expeditions focused on trawled seamounts located on the Eastern side of the archipelago, in order to recognize the damage that was caused. Lifeless ocean floor images confirmed the disappearance of more developed coral banks commonly found in these mounts. However, corals measuring just a few centimeters were and the same level of diversity as in other islands, which was an encouraging piece of information for scientists on the expedition.
The information gathered from all these journeys resulted in a number of technical reports that drove the Ministry of Environment to officialize the creation of a Multiple Purpose Marine Coastal Protected Area (AMCP-MU in Spanish), that was later extended and surrounded by a Marine Park measuring 262,000 square kilometers.
Today, fishermen of Juan Fernández continue their sustainable fishing labor in the protected area without fearing the threat of industrial fishing. Furthermore, some species that had not been sighted in a while, such as the cod, have been recovered and in addition, one of the largest endemic marine ecosystems of the world is kept healthy.
An abundance of yellow flowers surrounds the shoreline of Cumberland Bay, in the town of San Juan Bautista. Due to good weather at sea, most of the vessels are working offshore and only a few stayed in the bay.
This lobster is endemic to the Juan Fernández Islands and the Desventuradas Islands. In addition, it is the primary fishing resource of the island’s residents, which today is globally recognized for its sustainability.
This endemic species to the Juan Fernández Archipelago and Desventuradas Islands, can be found in rocky bottoms of shallow coastal areas. This small and robust fish is herbivorous and mainly feeds on algae.
Dr. Alan Friedlander works underwater counting and classifying fish of Robinson Crusoe island. In the image he is surrounded by pampanitos (Scorpis chilensis) and a species of wrasse (Malapterus reticulatus). In island waters, divers are frequently surrounded by large schools.
With part of their torsos on the surface and their heads underwater, a group of seals watches the work of scientists.
Even though this species was thought to be extinct, since its capture was banned in 1965, the population of fur seals in Juan Fernández grew considerably, becoming an example of species recovery.
The Juan Fernández Archipelago is comprised of three islands: Robinson Crusoe, formerly known as Más a Tierra (Closer to Land), Santa Clara and Alejandro Selkirk, formerly known as Más Afuera (Farther Out). Robinson Crusoe, seen here from the air, is the only island with an airport.
A great number of cracks, caves and caverns are the perfect habitat for countless species. In the picture, a school of soldierfish (Paratrachichthys fernandezianus) contrasts with the light from the flashlight of one of the underwater cameramen.
This species is not only one of the most common in Robinson Crusoe island, it is also endemic to the Juan Fernández Archipelago and Desventuradas Islands. It feeds on invertebrates, zooplankton, algae and parasites of other marine animals.
A small lobster calmly poses over a group of anemones. One of the reasons this fishery is maintained in good condition is because fishermen return lobsters that have a shell measuring less than 11.5 centimeters back into the sea, as well as females carrying eggs. Fishermen wait until they grow and reproduce before they are caught, ensuring their future sustenance.
The use of wooden traps is another measure that makes lobster catching sustainable. If for any reason the traps are lost at sea, the wood rots, releasing the captured lobsters. In the picture, Juan Fernandez fishermen pull a trap up into the boat.
This species is a small lobster different from other decapods in that it doesn’t have claws on any of its feet. It mainly feeds on small mollusks. In the picture, this specimen hides behind beautiful green anemones.
It is estimated that between 1788 and 1809, 74 ships that operated in these islands took about 2,750,000 seal skins. In the picture, an alpha male shows his fangs to the cameraman to mark his territory.
The majority of octopuses are true masters of camouflage, skillfully changing the color of their skin. Because of their habits, it’s easier to find them during night dives. They are carnivorous and feed on fish, crabs and mollusks. This species is also endemic to the Juan Fernández Archipelago and the Desventuradas Islands.
In the immense sea, Juan Fernández fishermen work collecting their lobster traps. These are often located far from the town, which is why the ship becomes their second home.
This Conger Eel species is endemic to the Archipelago of Juan Fernandez and Desventuradas Islands and can be found in caves or under big rocks. It is a carnivore and feeds on invertebrate fish.
It is one of the most common fish to see during diving expeditions since it is often spotted in large groups, in temperate and shallow waters, mainly in stone reefs.
This remarkable fish has a small compact body and a very large head, measuring up to approximately 10 centimeters. It is seen in caves and crevices, usually in schools, swimming synchronically.
Thanks to the abundance of this resource and how fishermen look after it, it’s possible to find lobsters while diving in Juan Fernández. They’re generally found in groups and prefer rocks and stones as shelter.
One of the most remarkable characteristics of this area is the great abundance of this species. The image shows a safety diver surrounded by a large school of fish, comprised of different species.
The striking colors of this group of pink actinias attract the attention of underwater cameramen. The large number of this species present in Juan Fernandez, makes diving a colorful experience.
A Spotted Scorpionfish attentively stares at the camera, camouflaged behind a group of orange anemones. A black sea urchin and several fish species. In the background, a diver observes the great biodiversity present in this area.
This species is endemic to the Archipelago of Juan Fernandez and Desventuradas Islands. It is named after its body’s beautiful color which has a variation of reddish, pink, and violet tones with a few yellowish spots. It is commonly seen in groups, in stone reefs.
Sole fish mainly inhabit sandy ocean floors in shallow areas. It slightly buries its body into the sand in order to feed and camouflaging while it waits for smaller fish to come along. Because both its eyes are located on the same side of its head, it can spot its pray with greater precision.
This is an herbivorous species that mainly feeds on algae and is endemic to Juan Fernandez and Desventuradas Islands. The image shows a school of Girellas swimming in the waters of Alejandro Selkirk island.
Although this coral is apparently red, its trunk is black, and it belongs to the order black coral. They are related to sea anemones since both of their anatomic structures have an hexameral symmetry. This specimen, with an approximate height of 1 meter, indicates that this part of JF6 seamount has never been impacted by bottom trawl fishing. These corals grow very slowly, the specimen in the image is at least 100 years old.
This is a typical fish of seamounts in Juan Fernandez and Desventuradas Islands. This image was taken at a 400-meter depth at the top of seamount JF6, using the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV).
This is a decapod crustacean, endemic to the archipelago, inhabiting the depths of seamounts. Today, it is considered a relevant resource for artisanal fishermen, allowing them to diversify fishing on the island and reduce pressure on lobsters.
Named after the black color of the cuticle covering its trunk, this specimen was documented at a depth of 175 meters. Remains of algae are caught in the coral’s branches, serving as a food source for herbivorous fish such as the breca.
This crustacean is a rare species but characteristic of seamount ecosystems. Its skinny back legs carry debris that it uses for camouflage. This specimen was documented at a depth of 240 meters in Selkirk Island.
Species seek shelter in a sea anemone which is very common in deep waters. These specimens were filmed at a depth of 95 meters.