Chile to create massive marine conservation park

Protected 1 million sq km area includes Easter Island; US also plans two marine sanctuaries

VINA DEL MAR (Chile) • One of the world's largest marine conservation parks is to be created in the Pacific Ocean by Chile, and the US has announced two new marine sanctuaries - with both countries signalling an increased drive against illegal fishing to help protect oceans.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Monday said the protected area would include remote Easter Island, part of the country's territory some 3,800km west of the capital Santiago.

Island inhabitants, the Rapa Nui, say they have been petitioning the government for years for more protection of fishing stocks, to guard against the overfishing of species such as tuna and swordfish.

A separate park will protect other island chains in the same region as Easter Island, including the Juan Fernandez archipelago , where disputes have arisen between commercial and artisanal fishermen.

"Its creation allows us to protect the biodiversity and richness of the sea surrounding the islands," said Mr Felipe Paredes, the mayor of Juan Fernandez, famous as the site where the sailor said to inspire Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe was marooned in the 18th century.


Together, the parks host one of the highest densities of indigenous marine species on the planet and will cover around 1 million sq km of ocean, Ms Bachelet told the second annual "Our Ocean" conference.

"This is Chile's contribution to the ocean, so that our children and grandchildren may enjoy what we are doing here," she said.

Meanwhile, the United States will create two marine sanctuaries - in Maryland and in Lake Michigan off Wisconsin - President Barack Obama said in a video address to the conference.

The proposed sites - a 36 sq km section in the Mallows Bay-Potomac River waters of Maryland and a 2,265 sq km portion of Lake Michigan - will be the first new national marine sanctuaries declared by the US government since 2000.

"We also have plans for yet another significant (park) in the Atlantic, and we're working with senators engaged in that particular area to make that happen," said Secretary of State John Kerry.

He said talks were under way on a marine-protected area arrangement between sites in Cuba and the US in which the two countries will share scientific research data.

The US will also launch pilot projects in the Philippines and Indonesia to turn ocean waste into energy, Mr Kerry said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2015, with the headline 'Chile to create massive marine conservation park'. Print Edition | Subscribe