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Chile's once-common hake have been decimated by waves of legal and illegal fishing. Claudia Pool / Oceana

By Allison Guy

When Hugo Arancibia Farías was a child, his mother, like most mothers in central Chile, visited the weekly market to buy common hake, a white-fleshed relative of cod. She usually served it fried, Arancibia recalled with relish. "It was very cheap," he said, "and very popular."

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Chile's small-scale fishers are squeezed, but a renewed interest in native foods offers hope. Claudio Almarza / Oceana

By Allison Guy

When Carlos Castro was young, he didn't plan on following his dad and granddad into fishing. Like a lot of teenagers in the 1970s, Castro dreamt of kung fu. Bruce Lee was more his style than the family business.

Castro swam laps to shape up back then, dodging boats in the bracingly cold bay of Valparaiso, a port city in central Chile. Forty years later, he still plies those waters, driving one of the boats he used to swim past. Castro, a youthful 56 in white trainers and Nike gear, became a fisherman after all.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Chile's #ChaoBolsasPlásticas campaign notes that by 2050, plastic is expected to outweigh fish in the sea. @MMAChile / Twitter

Chile's Constitutional Court ratified a bill that bans plastic bags across the country after rejecting an appeal from the plastics industry.

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Chile is set to become the first country in the Americas to ban plastic bags to help protect the environment and especially the ocean.

Congress unanimously approved the measure on Wednesday. The bill was initially designed to outlaw plastic bags in Patagonia, but was later extended nationwide.

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Nadine Lehner

By Robin Walter

After fording a rib-deep and bone-cracking cold river whose current could have easily swept away a person much bigger than I am, I took stock of my surroundings. My companions and I were sodden and soggy, huddled against slanting hail on the banks of the Jeinimeni River in Patagonia. Miserable? You bet. But there were also huge grins plastered across all of our faces. Exhilarated? Yes. Joyful? Plainly. Through rivulets of water cascading down rain-jacket hoods, I registered a few shell-shocked expressions. Everyone seemed to be chewing on the same question: How in the hell did I end up spending Christmas morning with frozen feet?

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Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed a decree Monday to create five new national parks and expand three others, following a pledge made last year with Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, the president and CEO of Tompkins Conservation, to dramatically expand national parkland in the South American country.

More than 10 million acres of new national parklands will be created in Chile, approximately three times the size of Yellowstone and Yosemite combined, or about the size of Switzerland. Bachelet said that would increase national parklands in Chile by 38.5 percent.

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The güiña gets its name from the Mapuche word "wiña," meaning "thief." eMinte / Flickr

By Niki Rust

The smallest wild cat species in the Americas faces big problems as its habitat dwindles and it's targeted as a farm pest. But a new study shows it may be able to persist in a human-dominated world—if farmers and policymakers give it a hand.

The güiña (Leopardus guigna), also known as kodkod, weighs 2 to 2.5 kilograms (4.4 to 5.5 pounds), eats birds and rodents, and is only found in the temperate rainforests of Chile and western Argentina. It's listed as "vulnerable" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with habitat loss and illegal killing considered the major causes of its decline.

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The Puelo River in Patagonia. Katalin Szarvas / xinature.com

By James Blair

Local residents and environmentalists in Chile are enjoying a prolonged New Year's celebration, thanks to two major legal decisions that will protect the country's free-flowing rivers. Chile's justice system put a final stop to two controversial large hydroelectric dam developments in Chilean Patagonia: 1) Mediterráneo S.A.'s run-of-the-river project proposed on tributaries of the Puelo River near the city of Cochamó; and 2) Energía Austral SpA's three-dam power plant proposed on the Cuervo River in the Aysén region.

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Humboldt penguins are vulnerable when they molt. A victory in Chile means they won't be vulnerable to mines and ships. Wikipedia / Creative Commons

By Allison Guy

Rosa Rojas has some unusual neighbors. Sometimes, when she looks past her front yard to the sea, she spots a blue whale passing by.

Rojas owns a cluster of guest cabins in Punta de Choros, a quiet, 450-person settlement seven hours north of Santiago. If not for the sea, Punta de Choros wouldn't exist. The scrubby, moon-gray desert surrounding the town doesn't offer much to sustain human life. But the ocean here is as generous as the land is dry. Shellfish beds churn out valuable clams and abalone. Whales and penguins lure in tourists.

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Fish can mistake plastic trash for food and can ingest it with fatal consequences. NOAA

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed a bill Wednesday that prohibits the sale of single-use plastic bags in 102 coastal villages and towns in a bid to stop the build-up of ocean plastic and to "[take] care of our marine ecosystems."

An estimated eight million tons of plastic trash gets dumped into our oceans each year, literally choking marine life, harming ocean ecosystems and threatening the larger food chain.

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View of the debris left after a forest fire destroyed the town of Las Corrientes, El Maule, Chile, on Thursday. Photo credit: Elvis Gonzalez / EPA

By Jeff Masters

The first all-time national heat record of 2017 was set in spectacular fashion on Thursday in Chile, where at least 12 different stations recorded a temperature in excess of the nation's previous all-time heat record—a 41.6 C (106.9 F) reading at Los Angeles on Feb. 9, 1944.

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