The Patagonian Sea is a globally important ecosystem given its high species diversity and endemism, large biomass and high abundance of apex predators. However, the Patagonian Sea is not pristine and there are many threats to its biodiversity and economic potential, such as invasive species, pollution, overfishing, and bycatch. While there are universities in Argentina that have successful research programs in marine sciences, training in topics of management and conservation are not adequate. Curricula are focused on natural sciences, leaving aside the social science tools that are fundamental to address the human dimensions of conservation and achieve lasting changes in the way humans interact with the environment. Increasingly, it is necessary to rely on professionals with an interdisciplinary perspective and with the capacity to lead collaborative processes that can impact public policy. In addition, given the expansive coast of the Patagonian Sea, there are few opportunities for networking, training and exchange of experiences for those professionals dedicated to marine conservation.
The Young Leaders in Marine Conservation Network (YLMCN), created in 2010, is an attempt to counter these challenges. Its mission is to provide training and strengthen leadership capacity among early career professionals in marine conservation in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay through programming and networking for effective conservation of the coastal marine system of these three countries. Within this framework, the current project aimed to strengthen the network by supporting its fifth conference, the objectives of which were to 1) improve communication skills and effectiveness of network members by offering a training on social science tools, 2) regionalize the network by integrating Chilean and Uruguayan members, and 3) work on a case study in public policy with the local community where the conference was held.
The Fifth Congress of the YLMCN was held during 22-28 September 2014 in Camarones, Chubut, Argentina. Two social anthropologists provided training to network members in social science tools and topics. The training was also open to other key participants selected based on their leadership, commitment and previous impact in the marine conservation arena. Classes in theory and application were offered and network members participated in a field trip to the Southern Interjurisdictional Coastal Marine Park of Patagonia. The first campaign by YLMCN was also carried out during the conference, which included a workshop for parties involved in municipal solid waste management, in an effort to develop a sustainable solid waste management plan. The development of such a plan is of critical importance given the proximity of the municipality to the marine environment.
The conference was a tremendous success and significantly strengthened the network and member capacity. In addition, it allowed for expansion by supporting the participation of new members from the two anticipated partner countries of Chile and Uruguay. ($6,790)