Mexican President Signs Decree Protecting Revillagigedo Archipelago
On Friday, 24 November, the Mexican government announced the creation of North America's largest marine protected area (MPA) around the Revillagigedo Archipelago, a chain of islands some 240 miles southwest of the Baja peninsula.
The four volcanic islands that make up the Revillagigedo Archipelago are currently uninhabited, and the establishment of the new marine reserve aims to protect the 983 species (including 88 endemics) which inhabit the region, of which 68 are currently listed as threatened. The islands are often called 'the Galápagos of North America', and are home to whale sharks, whales, turtles and manta rays.
Although the area has been a marine reserve for almost 20 years, the decree signed by President Enrique Peña Nieto expands the area of protection and strengthens legislation to prevent the development of hotels, industrial mining and unlicensed commercial fishing operations.
'This decree will prohibit in this area any fishing activity, the extraction of any natural resource and the construction of hotel infrastructure', said President Nieto in a statement.
He went on to say that fishing that is cannot be sustained can never be allowed.
At 57,000 square miles, the Revillagigedo Marine Park is the largest around the North American continent, and takes the total area of protected marine environments in Mexican waters to more than 270,000 square miles in total, more than doubling Mexico's commitment to the 2010 Aichi biodiversity targets, to which signatories agreed to protection of at least 10 per cent of their waters.
Expert marine biologist and oceanographer Sylvia Earle, a driving force behind international marine conservation, was present at the signing. '[The] decree today is a legacy that will last far beyond what this century,' she said, '[but] there is still much more that can be done.'