Map of the planned marine park (source The Guardian)
From The Guardian by Arthur Neslen
Rapa Nui protection area, about same size as Chilean mainland, will protect up to 142 species, including 27 threatened with extinction
One of the world’s largest marine protection areas has been created off the coast of Easter Island.
Rapa Nui with the GeoGarage platform (NGA chart)
The 740,000 sq km Rapa Nui marine park is roughly the size of the Chilean mainland and will protect at least 142 endemic marine species, including 27 threatened with extinction.
An astonishing 77% of the Pacific Ocean’s fish abundance occurs here and recent expeditions discovered several new species previously unknown to science.
Apex predators found in the conservation zone include scalloped hammerhead sharks, minke, humpback and blue whales, and four species of sea turtle.
Easter Island’s waters are teeming with sea life, including 142 species found nowhere else on the planet and 10 endangered species.
See the animals and other underwater wonders that make this area so unique.
Matt Rand, the director of the Pew Bertarelli ocean legacy project, which campaigned for the park, said: “This marine reserve will have a huge global significance for the conservation of oceans and of indigenous people’s ways of life.
“The Rapa Nui have long suffered from the loss of timber, declining ecosystems and declining populations. Now they are experiencing a resurgence based on ensuring the health of the oceans.”
Plans for the marine park were first announced at a conference in 2015, at which the former US president Barack Obama declared his “special love for the ocean” in a video message.
The plans were confirmed in a speech by Chilean president Michelle Bachelet on Saturday.
The marine park’s creation was enabled by a 73% vote in favour of the conservation zone from Easter Island’s 3,000 Rapa Nui population in a referendum on 3 September, after five years of consultations.
Extractive industries and industrial fishing will be banned inside the reserve, but the Rapa Nui will be allowed to continue their traditional artisanal fishing on small boats, using hand lines with rocks for weights.
The indigenous people of Easter Island, the Rapa Nui, are connected to the ocean.
Women and men fish for their families, and gather shells to craft traditional jewelry and artwork.
But what happens when fish stocks decline and plastic from other countries washes up on the Easter Island coast?
The Rapa Nui formed Te Mau O Te Vaikava O Rapa Nui -the Mesa del Mar- an effort made up of prominent fishing, tourism, environmental, and cultural leaders, to determine the best ways to protect their ocean waters for future generations.
Ludovic Burns Tuki, the director of the Mesa del mar coalition of more than 20 Rapa Nui groups, said: “This is a historic moment – a great and beautiful moment for the Rapa Nui, for the world and for our oceans.
“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.”
After the creation of a comparable marine protection area around the nearby Pitcairn Islands last year, proposals for a reserve in the Austral Islands’ waters could soon create a protected area of more than 2m sq km
This would have a unifying potential for the Polynesian people, according to Burns Tuki.
“The ocean is very important to us as a source of food, but the Polynesians were great navigators and the ocean also represents our mother,” he said.
“It enables us to move with a double canoe between the different islands. It gives us everything.”
As global warming takes hold, some scientific papers suggest that marine reserves may also help mitigate climate change and provide a vital carbon sink.
The deep, clear and cool waters around Easter Island are also a resilient area for coral reefs.
Marcelo Mena, Chile’s environment minister, said: “This marine protected area adds to the legacy of President Bachelet and the 1.5m sq km of protected areas created by this government.”
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has called for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected, but only about 1.6% has so far been covered by marine protection areas.
- NewsDeeply : As Big Marine Reserves Proliferate, a New Focus on Enforcement
- Pew : See The World’s Newest Marine Protected Area Around Easter Island
- SaveOurSeasMag : Science at the far end of the world
- National Geographic :
- GeoGarage blog : New ocean reserve, largest in Africa, protects whales and ... / Protection of our oceans must go hand-in-hand with the ... / Earth gets a surge of new ocean sanctuaries / Easter Island environmental opportunity: protecting Rapa ...