The Prize Winners

The MIDORI Prize for Biodiversity 2012

Dr. Juan Carlos Castilla

Juan Carlos Castilla
Professor, Marine Ecology, Department of Ecology,
Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile


It is a great honour to accept the AEON Environmental Foundation MIDORI Prize for Biodiversity 2012, co-hosted by the CBD Secretariat.

On facing marine conservation, biodiversity and sustainability of resources there are two corner stones: knowledge and realism that would provide novel solutions. Simple, top-down conservation recipes (i.e. just networks of exclusive no–take areas) will not work, since it is essential to integrate users, stakeholders and society. Solutions will not be easy to achieve. The best example is the CBD definition of biodiversity that addresses not just a challenger on species diversity, but a socio-ecological challenger in a dynamic world product of multiple interactions. The sustainability of socio-ecological systems depends on governance and ethical grounds. It is within this framework that in the past 40 years I developed in Chile novel marine management and conservation tools for the sustainability of coastal resources, integrating local small-scale fisher communities. Along the coast of Chile we investigated, promoted and helped to develop a network of over 500 small-scale fishery community-based co-management units, allocating communal exclusive territorial user rights for fisheries (TURFs), mixed with a few reserves areas. The beauty of this system, nowadays used as world model, is that it has shown to achieve benthic resource sustainability and proved to be a highly connected conservation and biodiversity ancillary network. In the Anthropocene era the new marine sustainability paradigm is the comprehensive melting and integration of conservation and management tools into a single enterprise.

Reasons for Awarding the Prize

Dr. Juan Carlos Castilla is a marine scientist who has succeeded in translating the findings of his research into national policy to enable the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. His work with governments, coastal and more marginalized artisanal fisher communities who are among the most vulnerable ecologically and economically in the face of biodiversity loss and adverse impacts of climate change, is commendable. He proved that the small scale Marine Protected Area is effective for sustainably developing the community as well as improving the livelihood of small sized fishermen. His achievements can be regarded as an integration model of science, policies and capacity development, and indicate the possibility of growing a Green economy. With more community-based researchers and practitioners like him to ensure ecosystem based management in communities around the world, there is hope that the Aichi Targets will be met.
Coastal and marine biodiversity, also addressed at Rio+20, is an internationally growing concern. It has been the theme for this year's International Day for Biological Diversity and was a major agenda item at COP11. Dr. Castilla's pioneering activities in the marine field will call attention to the urgency of actions needed to reduce pressures on coastal and marine biodiversity.


Dr. Juan Carlos Castilla (b. 1940) started his career in marine preserves and management areas that play an important role in the sustainable use of natural resources. Dr. Castilla who considered to be "the pioneer of South American marine ecology," is a professor in the Department of Ecology at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile where he teaches marine and community ecology. He also headed for 18 years the Coastal Marine Station, "Estacion Costera de Investigaciones Marineas," in Las Cruces, Chile, which has operated as a research marine preserve for more than 25 years.

In a long-term experiment at the preserve, Dr. Castilla has worked with artisanal fishing communities to test no-take zones, "human exclusion" areas and seasonal closings. He conducted experiments at the small scale Marine Protected Area (MPA) as the experimental facility of the Catolica University. His research results successfully proved that MPA is effective for increasing natural resources and conserving biodiversity in the surrounding sea areas. He proposed the integration of small scale MPA and fishery, and this proposal was disseminated throughout Chile.

Positive results have greatly influenced the new Chilean Fishery and Aquaculture law especially on matters related to the management of benthic resources. These activities and the results identified the role of small sized fishermen toward sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity, realized the institution to conserve artisanal fisheries in Chilean coastal zones, and participated in PISCO (Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans), PEW Foundation Marine Conservation and the Mellon Foundation Coastal Ecosystem projects, with Chilean and US scientists as Profs. Jane Lubchenco, Bruce Menge and Steve Gaines. More than 60 papers have now been published on these unique projects.

Part of the success of his activities is Dr. Castilla's significant theoretical and practical experience in issues related to coastal property rights, management and exploitation areas and co-management. Regarding the integration of conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, his achievements in raising awareness about the role of small sized fishers and proposing a new legal system from a biologist are also influential to the world.

Dr. Castilla has been invited by more than 30 universities to offer lectures and seminars, has published over 250 papers and he has been recognized with a number of awards for his pioneering work on marine parks and reserves, the co-management of coastal resources and conservation of marine biodiversity.

* This profile was prepared in 2012.

Record of Awards

Third World Academy of Science (Award in Biology)
BBVA Foundation Award for Scientific Research (Ecology and Conservation Biology, BBVA Foundation, Argentina)
National Award for Applied Science and Technology (Government of Chile)
Ramon Margalef Award (Government of Catalonia, Spain)
Wildlife Conservation Award (The Wildlife Conservation Society)

List of Major Publications

Dr. Castilla´s representative Books and Papers 

Related Website

Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile