Cobquecura-Itata IMMA

Size in Square Kilometres

2 995 km2

Qualifying Species and Criteria

South American sea lion – Otaria byronia 

Criterion C (1)

Chilean dolphin – Cephalorhynchus eutropia 

Criterion A; B (1)

Marine Mammal Diversity

Lontra felina, Phocoena spinipinnis, Balaenoptera borealis, Orcinus orca, Megaptera novaeangliae, Eubalaena australis

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The coastal zone of the Cobquecura-Itata IMMA is influenced by seasonal coastal upwelling originating from an area offshore of Concepción, which is one of the most productive zones in the Humboldt Current System. It is further influenced by the Itata river, which introduces freshwater into a critical habitat for a genetically distinct population of Chilean dolphins (Cephalorhynchus eutropia). Two species of marine mammals satisfy criteria for this IMMAs status: the Chilean dolphin, which is classified as ‘Vulnerable’ under Chilean regulations, and the South American sea lion (Otaria byronia). Though classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the sea lion colony of Cobquecura is the most important breeding colony for the South American sea lion in the region, with an annual pup production that represents more than 50% of the total pup production for Central Chile. The risk of mortality of pups of this species is increasing due to the regular frequency of coastal storms.

Description of Qualifying Criteria

Criterion A – Species or Population Vulnerability

Chilean dolphins are listed as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (Heinrich & Reeves, 2017) but are listed as Vulnerable (VUc1) in the northern part of the distribution of this species under the Chilean Regulation for the Classification of Wild Species ( The range-wide abundance is not known but the species is thought to number in the low thousands which, if confirmed, would meet the criteria for Vulnerable status (Heinrich and Reeves, 2017). Concerns about bycatch (Pérez-Alvarez et al., 2021), and the existence of two genetically distinct meta-populations north of Chiloé Island and in the southern fjord region (Pérez-Alvarez et al., 2015) also support a potential revision of the species’ global conservation status.

Criterion B: Distribution and Abundance

Sub-criterion B1: Small and Resident Populations

Chilean dolphins are the species most frequently documented within the IMMA, with group sizes ranging from 15-20 individuals in different locations within the IMMA (Quiñones et al., 2015, Pavez et al., 2020). In 2012, an adult and a calf of this species was also observed. Although there are no photo-identification or other studies providing definitive evidence that the same individuals are resident in the IMMA, the species’ restricted range to nearshore coastal and estuarine waters (e.g. Dawson, 2018), it can be assumed that at least one population or community of the species is resident within the IMMA year-round. Chilean dolphins from Valparaiso to north of Chiloé (the northern portion of the species’ range in the open coast) are considered genetically distinct from those of the fjord region south of Puerto Montt (Pérez-Alvarez et al., 2015).

Criterion C: Key Life Cycle Activities

Sub-criterion C1: Reproductive Areas

The sea lion breeding colony of Cobquecura is the most important colony for South American sea lions in Central Chile (Oliva et al., 2020). The colony population is estimated to be 3,204 +/- 77 individuals, producing of 548 pups annually, which in turn represented 50.5% of the total pups born in Central Chile during the summer of 2019 (Oliva et al., 2020). Sea lions are found year-round in the area, although seasonal and daily variations occur (Sepúlveda et al., 2012; 2021). A positive abundance trend has been observed from 2008 to 2020 in this colony (Sepúlveda et al., 2021).

Supporting Information

Dawson, S.M, 2018. Cephalorynchus dolphins. In: B. Würsig, J. G. M. Thewissen and K. M. Kovacs, editors, Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals No. Third Edition. Academic Press, Elsevier, San Diego. p. 205-209.

Daneri, G., Dellarossa, V., Quiñones, R., Jacob, B., Montero, P. and Ulloa, O. 2000. ‘Primary production and community respiration in the Humboldt Current System off Chile and associated oceanic areas’. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 197, 41-49.

Goodall, R. N. P., K. Norris, A. Galeazzi, J. Oporto and I. Cameron. 1988. On the Chilean dolphin Cephalorhynchus eutropia Gray, 1846. Report of the International Whaling Commission (Special Issue 9):197–257.

Goodall, R. N. P. 1994. Chilean dolphin Cephalorhynchus eutropia (Gray 1846). Pages 269–287 in S. H. Ridgway and R. Harrison, eds. Handbook of marine mammals. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.

Heinrich, S. & Reeves, R. 2017. Cephalorhynchus eutropia. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T4160A50351955.

Iriarte, J. L., Vargas, C. A., Tapia, F. J., Bermúdez, R. and Urrutia, R.E. 2012. Primary production and plankton carbon biomass in a river-influenced upwelling area off Concepción, Chile. Progress in Oceanography, 92, 97-109.

Oliva, D., Durán, L.R., Sepúlveda, M., Cárcamo, D., Pizarro, M., Anguita, C., Santos-Carvallo, M., Canto, A., Herrera, P., Muñoz, L., Orellana, M. and Vásquez, P. 2020. ‘Estimación poblacional de lobos marinos e impacto de la captura incidental’. Informe Final Proyecto FIP 2018-54, 184 pp.

Pavés, H.J., Tobar, C.N., Santibáñez, A., Meier, D., Miranda-Urbina, D. and Olivera, F. 2020. ‘Patrones de avistamientos y distribución de mamíferos marinos en el litoral centro-sur de Chile’. Revista de biología marina y oceanografía, 55(3), 225-237.

Pérez-Alvarez, M.J., Olavarría, C., Moraga, R., Baker, C.S., Hamner, R.M. and Poulin, E. 2015. ‘Microsatellite markers reveal strong genetic structure in the endemic Chilean dolphin’. PLoS One, 10(4), e0123956.

Pérez-Alvarez, M.J., Estevez, R., Gelcich, S., Heinrich, S., Olavarría, C., Santos- Carvallo, M., Sepúlveda, M., Medrano, C., Rodríguez, C. and Espinosa-Miranda, C. 2020. Evaluación de la Interacción del Delfín Chileno (Cephalorhynchus eutropia) y Actividades de Pesca Costera y Acuicultura a lo Largo de su Distribución. Fase 1. Informe Final Proyecto FIPA 2018-43, 262 pp.

Quiñones, R.A., Sepúlveda, M., Carrasco, P. and Pedreros, E. 2015. Ecología y biología del lobo marino común, Otaria flavescens, en el Santuario Islote Lobería de Cobquecura. Informe de Avance Período Enero 2012-Diciembre 2014. Programa de Investigación Marina de Excelencia (PIMEX), Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Oceanográficas, Universidad de Concepción, Chile. 85 pp.

Sepúlveda, M., Quiñones, R.A., Carrasco, P. and Pérez-Álvarez, M.J. 2012. ‘Daily and seasonal variation in the haul-out behavior of the South American sea lion’. Mammalian Biology, 77(4), 288-292.

Sepúlveda, M., Carrasco, P. and Quiñones, R. 2021. `Long-term abundance dynamics of the South American sea lion (Otaria flavescens) in the most important breeding colony in central Chile. Austral Ecology 46, 1277–1286.

Thiel M, Macaya EC, Acuña E, Arntz WE, Bastias H, Brokordt K, Camus PA, Castilla JC, Castro L, Cortés M, Dumont CP, Escribano R, Fernandez M, Fajardo JA, Gaymer CF, Gomez I, Gonzalez AE, González H, Haye PA, Illanes JE, Iriarte JL, Lancellotti DA, Luna-Jorquera G, Luxoro C, Manriquez PH, Marín V, Muñoz P, Navarrete SA, Perez E, Poulin E, Sellanes J, Hito Sepúlveda H, Stotz W, Tala F, Thomas A, Vargas CA, Vasquez JA & JM Alonso Vega. 2007. The Humboldt current system of northern and central Chile. Oceanographic processes, Ecological interactions and socioeconomic feedback. Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual review 45: 195-344.


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