Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as it known by the island’s indigenous people, is located in the south eastern Pacific Ocean and is the south easternmost 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.
Local fishermen had long felt the effect of illegal fishing in their waters – they reported sightings of fishing boats on the horizon and at the same time experienced a decrease in their daily 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. We carried out the largest scientific assessment ever completed of the island’s marine environment, conducted an economic analysis of the impact of a marine park, and provided environmental education and training through workshops and exchanges with other Polynesian cultures for the islanders.
The Bertarelli Foundation also supported a satellite assessment of illegal fishing activity, which confirmed the Rapa Nui’s fears that 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 towards creating a 720,000km2 marine park. After a period of consultation, 73% of Rapa Nui islanders voted in support of plans to create a marine reserve whilst maintaining their ancient fishing practices. President Bachelet, along with representatives of Easter Island’s indigenous groups, signed a decree creating the ‘Rapa Nui Rāhui’ on the 27th February 2018.
On 1st August 2018, President Piñera of Chile visited Easter Island and welcomed the creation of the Ocean Council, which will work to define the final MPA management plan.
The Rapa Nui Rāhui marine protected area will not only protect the marine ecosystem, but will also ensure that the Rapa Nui’s traditions and connection to the ocean will be preserved.