Capstone Title

The Coastal and Marine Areas of Uruguay

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor



Uruguay is located in the Southeast Atlantic Region of South America at approximately 35° South and 55° West between Argentina and Brazil. Its coast is situated at the confluence of the Brazil and Malvinas currents. The southwestern boundary of Uruguay is located along the La Plata River, from now on referred to as the Rio de la Plata, which drains a very extensive area of South America (Fig . 1) .

Uruguay is divided into 19 subnational units called Departments which are equivalent to Provinces or States. Of the 19, 5 are on the Rio de la Plata (Colonia, San Jose, Montevideo, Canelones, and Maldonado) and the 2 border the Atlantic Ocean (Maldonado and Rocha) (Fig. 2) . The East coast of Uruguay, which is only 360 km long, is made up of the two Departments of the ocean portion of the coast, plus three of the five departments of the estuarine portion of the coast (Montevideo, Canelones, and Maldonado). The West Coast of Uruguay on the Rio de la Plata is not considered in this paper and refers to the Departments of Colonia and San Jose (Fig . 2) .

The geographical location of Uruguay has largely influenced the design of region and bilateral treaties that regulate activities in the ocean and coastal waters. The national jurisdiction has been recently extended to 370.6 km (200 nm) distance seaward from the shoreline, in compliance with the United Nations Law of the Sea. This implies the responsibility to manage an area equivalent to 44 percent of the entire country.

Uruguay has historically been a cattle raising country. The development of coastal and ocean sectors, such as fisheries and tourism, represents an increased national awareness of the potential of its coastal and marine resources and environments as well as a new substantial source of income for the country. However, the issues of the greatest recent public interest on marine affairs in Uruguay are the negative impacts of natural erosion and man-induced pollution on coastal recreation and tourism, and the possibility that the exploited fisheries might be depleted.

Given this perspective, this paper describes the regions and environments of the coastal and marine areas of Uruguay. It reviews jurisdictional aspects, identifies some crucial issues, provides an overview of institutions and institutional arrangements, and makes recommendations towards a more effective management of the coastal and ocean areas of Uruguay. One of the limitations of effective management if the lack of reliable information. Correcting this problem would certainly be a priority issue if substantial conservation and development of coastal and marine areas is to be achieved.

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