Rapa Nui (Easter Island) is world famous for its inscrutable, monuments, called moai, that dot the island’s landscape. Now the isolated Chilean Island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean has another reason to be world famous. The Rapa Nui Marine Park is an extraordinarily important marine protected area that has just been created in waters surrounding Easter Island.
The Rapa Nui MPA, covering 740,000 sq km is roughly the size of mainland Chile and is now one of the world’s largest MPAs. Most importantly it provides protection for a minimum of 142 endemic marine species, including 27 that are endangered. Estimates suggest that 77% of the Pacific’s fish abundance occurs here and recent expeditions discovered several, previously unknown species, as reported in the guardian.
Breaking News: On both sides of the Pacific Ocean the countries of Chile and Niue have created three marine protected areas that in total cover an area of 290,000 square miles of ocean, more than twice the size of Germany. Read more in National Geographic.
“This marine reserve will have a huge global significance for the conservation of oceans and of indigenous people’s ways of life” said Matt Rand, Director of Pew Bertarelli ocean legacy project, which campaigned for the park. (photo – PEW Trust)
In addition to preserving marine life, several scientific papers have suggested the marine reserves in the deep and cool waters surrounding Easter and Pitcairn Islands can offer a resilient area for coral reefs and may help to mitigate the effects of ocean warming and climate change.
Easter Islanders voted overwhelmingly for the Marine Park.
73% of the island’s 3,000 inhabitants voted in favor of the creation of the conservation zone after five years of consultations.
Industrial scale fishing and extractive industries are to be banned inside the reserve, but the local Rapa Nui are allowed to continue their traditional artisanal fishing on small boats, using hand lines with rocks for weights. (photo – tapati rapa nui festival, bloomberg)
“This is a historic moment – a great and beautiful moment for the Rapa Nui, for the world and for our oceans” said Ludovic Burns Tuki, director of a local coalition.
“We think this process can be an example for the creation of other marine reserves that we need to protect our oceans – with a respect for the human dimension.”
With the creation, last year, of a similar marine protected area surrounding nearby Pitcairn Island there is potential for a protected area of more than 2m. sq km. To date, approximately 1.6% of the world’s oceans are protected and with the International Union for Conservation of Nature calling to eventually protect up to 30% of the world’s waters, the creation of the Rapa Nui and Pitcairn marine reserves is a huge step forward.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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