The Rapa Nui marine park with size of 740,000 sq. km is about the largest protected areas in the world and the largest in the Americas. It is located off the coast of Easter Island and approximately the mass of Chilean mainland. It is expected to guard at least 142 prevalent aquatic species with more emphasis on 27 species that are threatened by extinction. This places Chile at par with various other nations that have made great strides to mitigate climate change.
It is estimated that seventy-seven percent of the fishes in the Pacific Ocean are found here. An expedition carried out in the area recently revealed several nascent species that were alien to science. Some of the predators at the top of the food web found in this area are blue whales, minke, hammerhead sharks, and humpback. They also discovered 4 distinct species of sea turtle.
The person who campaigned for the park was Pew Bertarelli ocean legacy project director, Matt Rand. Rand who was passionate about the project echoed its significance to the world especially to the people of Rapa Nui,
“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 ocean.”
Source: The Guardian
The announcement of the aquatic park was at a 2015 conference and it received the support of the former president of the United States, Barack Obama. The president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet made the confirmation speech. The creation of the marine park was made possible because the seventy-three percent of Easter Island’s three thousand populations in Rapa Nui voted in favor of the marine park in a referendum conducted on September 3 – roughly after making consultations for 5 years.
This announcement has tripled the volume of Chile’s offshore waters that are under the strongest form of protection. Vice president of Oceana in Chile, Alex Muñoz, said fishing will still be allowed in the unprotected wedge-shaped area which gives a distinctive shape to the marine protection area (MPA). Chile is now becoming a leader in marine conservation as pointed out by Muñoz,
“For many years, Chile has been one of the most important fishing countries in the world. Unfortunately, that led to depletion of our marine resources. With the creation of this marine park around Desventuradas, we’re becoming a leader in marine conservation.”
Source: National Geographic
Also, in addition to the ban on industrial fishing, extractive industries are forbidden within the reserve. However, the people of Rapa Nui will still be permitted to fish in the protected area using small boats and hand. The director of Mesa del Mar (a conglomerate of more than twenty Rapa Nui organizations), Ludovic Burns Tuki, expressed his love for the new conservation area in a speech,
“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.”
Source: First Press
There are scientific papers that advocate that marine conservation can help to curb climate change as well as create a carbon sink. It has also been discovered that the Easter Island’s deep, cool, and clear waters have a large reserve of coral reefs. There is a call by the International Union for Conservation of Nature for thirty percent of the world’s ocean to be under protection but currently, the figure of protected area stands at around 1.6%.