Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as it known by the island’s indigenous people, is located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean and is the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle. Whilst many know of the island because of its iconic stone statues, its marine environment has 142 unique species and features such as hydro-thermal vents and sea-mounts which are important both at a local and global level.
For some time the local fishermen had seen the effect of illegal fishing in their waters – they reported seeing fishing boats on the horizon and at the same time a decrease in their catch. Keen to reverse this trend, the Rapa Nui began a campaign to protect their waters.
The Bertarelli Foundation, in partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts, supported this campaign and carried out the largest scientific assessment ever completed of the island’s marine environment, an economic analysis of the impact of a marine park and provided environmental education and training for the islanders.
Importantly, The Bertarelli Foundation also supported a satellite assessment of illegal fishing activity in partnership with SkyTruth. These studies confirmed the Rapa Nui’s fears – fishing vessels were illegally entering their waters – and provided fresh impetus to their campaign.
In October 2015, President Bachelet of Chile announced her desire to support the Rapa Nui’s campaign to protect their waters and took the first step to creating a 631,368km2 marine park. Importantly, this designation will not only protect the important marine ecosystem, but it will ensure the continuation of ancient fishing practises and the traditions of the Rapa Nui people.