Posted by: Celine Cousteau | January 26, 2009

CHILE- Punta de Choros


Bottlenose dolphinsBottlenose dolphins inside the Reserva Marina Islas Damas/Choros


In the Humboldt current fed cold waters off Punta de Choros in the Coquimbo region of Chile, lies the first marine reserve of the country, Reserva Marina Isla Damas/Choros, designated in 2005. At the time of my visit in late November 2008, it was not yet actually protected by any official standard. The islands themselves, Choros, Damas, and Gaviota are protected as they form the Reserva Nacional Pinguïno Humboldt and have restricted access parameters. There are more than 17,000 Humboldt penguins here, representing 80% of the total population listed as critically endangered on a national level. When they enter the waters to feed, they are no longer protected. But it is not only the penguins that are at risk, there are bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, as well as migrating orcas, the occasional blue whale passing through, and the Peruvian-diving Petrel who live on the islands.

ExploraSub organized a conference for the third time on Punta Choros with the goal of informing and inspiring people to care for this area and pushing the government to officially protect it. ( Most of the more than 100 participants were divers since they have a first-hand interest in seeing this area protected, but this year there were also a plethora of journalists, invited to experience this ecosystem, even if only above water. I was invited to speak at the conference in the company of others such as a representative from Oceanic, a freediver, a marine biologist, and someone from the local coast guard, amongst others. 

Sea Lions on Isla DamasSea lions on Isla Damas

During my time in Chile, ExploraSub organized various other activities to really capitalize on the possibilities of bringing attention to the need to officially protect the reserve. After a preliminary press conference, I met with the Minister of Environment, Ana Lya Uriarte, appeared on a national TV show, a few radio spots, and eventually met the president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, at the ExpoNaval. It seems there are good intentions all around, now let’s see what actually happens.

michelle-bacheletCésar Villarroel, President Michelle Bachelet, and myself at the ExpoNaval in Valparaiso, Chile

I was very moved because the spirit and memories of my grandfather are still very much alive in the minds and hearts of the people I met in Chile. At every turn someone would tell me they grew up with my grandfather and some had been so inspired by him they chose to study marine biology. An artist and educator made a last minute 5 hour drive to the reserve to meet with me for 30 minutes to let me know that my grandfather’s work had encouraged her to create her current project, teaching kids about the importance of the animals in the ocean. It goes to show that you can’t underestimate the power of inspiration to motivate people to act!

Read an article on the conference:



César Villarroel- conference organizer and director of ExploraSub with Mery Salazar, Freediver and director of ValpoSub







Capitán Juan Guajardo and myself just before my dive in the reserve.




  1. When do we go!? It looks amazing…thanks for the C-Log entry dear.

  2. Celine Cousteau:
    Primero, quisiera agradecer por su llamado a las autoridades chilenas sobre la importancia de la conservación de las especies animales.
    Leí, en un reportaje, que tenía la intensión de hacer un documental sobre las ballenas que se encuentran próximas a la Isla de Chiloé. Si esto es verdad, humildemente quisiera ofrecer mi colaboración.
    Soy de la Isla, y me interesaría mucho poder ayudar en la concientización sobre estos mamíferos, y sobre todo aprender mucho de su trabajo.
    Atte. Vanessa

    • Hola Vanessa
      si, tienes razón, estoy investigando la posibilidad de hacer un documental en Chile, pero no era específicamente sobre las ballenas. Quizás algún día podré pasar allá. Aprecio mucho su oferta de colaboración.
      Buena suerte con todo.

  3. It is great to hear that your grandfather had such an impact on that area, and whom is still inspiring people till this day the people there and eberywhere about the importance of taking care of the environment.
    Appreciate you in continuing to carry the torch in your own way, from your grandfathers history of educating people about the environment, and the affects we all have on the ocean & the earths environment.
    Thank You, Celine Cousteau, for doing good work!
    Greg DiPomazio

    • Dear Greg,
      Thanks so much for your comment. It’s always great top hear how our grandfather inspired people like you around the world.
      Warm regards,

  4. Dear Celine,
    Your work has been an inspiration. I would like to help and contribute to your efforts in educating novices around the world take greater care and respect for our planet, starting with myself. How can I help you.

    Warm regards,

    • Hello Jung-Ah
      first off it’s great that you want to help and be involved in efforts. I would suggest looking at NGOs and even global campaigns that you can get involved in where you are now. Check out what Clean Up the World does : I’m an ambassador to their campaign and think they do great work by finding partners all over the world to create a more efficient campaign. There are many beach/sea clean up projects as well- so if the ocean is what you are most interested in there are opportunities there. If you are a writer, blog, offer to write articles, and overall offer your help in the areas you feel you can help. NGOs always welcome donations so that is another possibility. The important thing is to do something.
      Best and good luck

    • Hello Jung,
      thanks for your offer to help support. Right now my best advice is to find a project you can donate funds or time to. At this point I’m starting a company to produce some series but we don’t a place yet to receive funds. Soon, I hope.
      Good luck-

  5. Great information on this blog! I would love to attend any future workshops or lectures that you are involved with.

  6. Hola Celine

    Después de leer tu experiencia en Punta de Choros, me preguntaba si sabías que una nueva termoeléctrica que piensan instalar en el sector está atentando contra la fauna marina de esta reserva.

    En Chile el están tratando de ocultar el tema, porque al parecer al Gobierno le importa más el problema energético que el ecosistema.

    Espero que leas esto y que puedas contribuir de alguna forma a frenar esta idea, tú eres una figura importante a nivel internacional y supongo que ayudarás a que la “imagen país” se trabaje desde la realidad y no sólo desde las conferencias.

    Te invito a revisar el sitio


    • Si no me equivoco, no lograron hacer las termoelectricas cerca de Punta de Choros. Ya es algo bueno.

  7. Celine, again appreciate you and all that the Cousteau family does for promoting cleaner oceans and a cleaner environment!
    What can we do as individuals to help promote and do to help our earths environment? Also, what can an individual do to ask governments for better safety practices on energy solutions.
    Your, grandfather alway’s stressed the next generations rights, for clean oceans and living environments.

    • Dear Greg- the best thing you can do is search for ways you as an individual can reduce your impact on the environment- one easy way is to look at the Seafood Watch Guide of the Monterey Bay Aquarium to make wiser choices about the things you eat from the ocean. Then pass on that knowledge and influence the people around you. If you are up for more, get involved in policy advocacy and read the news about what is going on in the world of environmental protection and law. NRDC is a great organization to support in that field. And energy solutions- again, start at home, reduce use, and if available sign up for alternative energy resources- some states make that available. My grandfather indeed talked about the right’s of future generations…what have we done since he first talked about it? Thanks for caring enough to write- it’s a great start.

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