Chile will create one of the world’s biggest marine parks around the Pacific waters of Easter Island, president Michelle Bachelet said on Monday.
If the island’s indigenous Rapa Nui people approve the plan after a consultation by the mainland government, fishing will be banned from a 631,368 sq km (243,630 sq miles) area – though still allowed up to 50m out for local fishermen – in an effort to stem illegal fishing.
Joshua S Reichert, lead on environment initiatives at Pew, said: “World famous for its Moai statues, Easter Island will now be known as a global leader in ocean conservation.
“This announcement is an important step toward establishing the world’s first generation of great parks in the sea.”
The park will rub up against one planned by the British government, encompassing an 834,000 sq km (322,000 sq miles) area around the Pitcairn Islands to the west.
Fishermen on Easter Island have complained that illegal industrial fishing trawlers are stealing their tuna, while satellite analysis by NGOs indicated more than two-dozen potential illegal fishing vessels in the area over a year.
Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin group, who has spoken out before about ocean conservation, blogged: “This wonderful action will protect treasures off the shores of this remote island, as well as the brilliant biodiversity that feeds the local Rapa Nui people, and helps them continue their centuries-old cultural traditions.”
The intent to create what would be the world’s third largest marine park was announced at the Our Ocean conference in Valparaiso which is being attended by US secretary of state, John Kerry.
US president Barack Obama recorded a video message for the event, in which he declared his “special love of the ocean” and announced that the US would create two new protected areas for tidal waters at Lake Michigan and Maryland.
President Bachelet also announced the creation of a marine park around two of the so-called Unfortunate Islands off the coast of Chile, San Ambrosio and San Félix. Alex Muñoz, vice president for the marine NGO, Oceana in Chile, said: “With the creation of this large marine park, Chile also becomes a world leader in marine conservation.”
The intent to create a marine park around what Bachelet called the “iconic island” of Easter Island would only go ahead if it was supported by the local community following a consultation, she said.
Together the two Chilean marine parks would cover an area greater than 1,000,000 sq km, the president said.
Last week, New Zealand announced a new ocean sanctuary around the Kermadec islands, which will span 620,000 sq km.
–From The Guardian