The final step to protect the unique waters around Easter Island was confirmed on February 27 when Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed a decree to create a Marine Protected Area (MPA).
The new Rapa Nui MPA covers 720,000 km2, an area of ocean about the size of France, and guards against industrial fishing and extractive activities, while protecting the traditional fishing practices of the Rapa Nui. It was achieved through the hard work and leadership of Rapa Nui groups, including a coalition of business leaders, fishers, and more than 20 local organizations, along with support from the Bertarelli Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Easter island is located in a remote area of the Pacific Ocean, around 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) west of Chile.
Co-chair of the Bertarelli Foundation, Dona Bertarelli said: “This is an incredible moment in the history of Easter Island. The Bertarelli Foundation is very proud to have accompanied the Rapa Nui for the past six years, as they campaigned to protect their waters and their heritage.”
The area around Easter Island is one of the most unique marine environments in the world and home to at least 142 endemic species, including 27 that are threatened or endangered. The Rapa Nui MPA contributes a huge stretch of ocean to the global push for 30% of the ocean in protection by 2030, the target recommended by scientists and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, but there is still a very long way to go.
Dona Bertarelli stated: “Chile has shown its leadership to conserve the global ocean, and looking forward, there is a lot more work to be done by countries everywhere if we are to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030.”
Large scale MPAs are acknowledged as essential to building resilience of the ocean in a changing climate, helping to protect marine life and conserve complex ecosystems. But they will only work if the MPAs are robust and offer genuine protection.
Main image: Easter Island is home to at least 142 endemic species, including the Easter Island butterfly fish.
Photo Credit: Eduardo Sorensen/The Pew Charitable Trusts