Chile to create Easter Island Marine Park
The Chilean government is to create one of the world’s largest fully protected marine parks in the waters surrounding Easter Island, a Chilean territory in the South Pacific Ocean
At 631,368 square kilometres (243,630 square miles), the new marine park will be the third largest fully protected area of ocean in the world, announced Chile’s president Michelle Bachelet at an international conference on the protection of the oceans.
The indigenous community of Easter Island – or Rapa Nui, as the island, its indigenous people, and their language are known – proposed the park to safeguard the biodiversity of the island’s waters, which are home to 142 endemic species, 27 of which are threatened or endangered. The park will also help the Rapa Nui continue centuries-old subsistence fishing practices within an area that extends 50 nautical miles from the shoreline.
Known around the globe for its famous Moai statues, it is hoped that Easter Island will now also be known as a world leader in ocean conservation.
Some 4,000km (2,500 miles) west of Chile’s mainland, the largely unexplored waters of Easter Island are an oasis in the nutrient-poor Pacific and known to contain biological hot spots, including the only hydrothermal vents in Chilean waters.
The area is also an important spawning ground for many species, including tuna, sharks, marlins, and swordfish.
‘This marine park will not only conserve the many species that call the waters of Easter Island home but also the traditions of our Polynesian ancestors and the Rapa Nui people,’ said Pedro Edmunds Paoa, Easter Island’s mayor. ‘The park will be complemented by a fishing area that will allow our ancient practice of tapu – or smart fisheries management – to endure.
‘The ocean is the basis of our culture and our livelihood,’ said the mayor. ‘The Rapa Nui community is immensely proud of this marine park, which will protect our waters for generations to come.’
The Pew Charitable Trusts' Global Ocean Legacy program, in collaboration with The Bertarelli Foundation, which has made significant investments in securing other large-scale protected areas, has supported the Rapa Nui’s efforts to protect their ocean waters since 2012.
This completes a trio of announcements in 2015 regarding the creation of large marine reserves. In March, the British government announced the creation of the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve, and in September New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced the creation of a fully protected ocean sanctuary in the Kermadecs, located about 1,000km (620 miles) northeast of North Island.