At the Our Ocean Conference in Valparaíso, the Chilean President, Michelle Bachelet, announced that her Government is to create one of the world’s largest fully protected marine parks in the waters surrounding Easter Island.
At 631,368 square kilometers (243,630 square miles), the new marine park will be the third-largest fully protected area of ocean in the world. The indigenous community of Easter Island—or Rapa Nui, as the island, its indigenous people, and their language are known—proposed the park to safeguard the biodiversity of the island’s waters, which are home to 142 endemic species, 27 of which are threatened or endangered. The park also will help the Rapa Nui continue centuries-old subsistence fishing practices within an area that extends 50 nautical miles from the shoreline.
The Bertarelli Foundation, in collaboration with Pew’s Global Ocean Legacy program, has supported the Rapa Nui’s efforts to protect their ocean waters since 2012 and also made possible research that underpinned the case for the marine reserve. This included the largest scientific assessment ever completed of the island’s marine environment, an economic analysis of the impact of a marine park, education and training for the local population, the facilitation of cultural exchanges with other native Polynesian people, and assistance with monitoring for illegal fishing activities.
Dona Bertarelli, who gave an address at the conference, along with Senator John Kerry, Richard Branson and others, said:
This is an exciting breakthrough, and I’m very proud of the role the Foundation has been able to play in supporting the Rapa Nui’s campaign and bringing this about. Rebuilding ocean resilience through protected areas is a crucial contribution to wider ocean health, in addition to securing the unique habitats of Easter Island for future generations.