New chapter opens for Easter Island Marine Protection. Bertarelli Foundation calls for other countries to protect the ocean.

The final step to protect the unique waters around Easter Island through the establishment of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) was completed today, February 27th, 2018, when Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed the decree.

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.

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.

The 30% target can be achieved through both the creation of MPAs in territorial waters and the protection of large areas of the high seas, which are beyond any one country’s national jurisdiction. Negotiations towards a new UN Treaty to protect the biodiversity of the high seas start later in the year and the Bertarelli Foundation is keen to see a strong outcome so that more of the ocean can be protected.

The first UN Intergovernmental Conference to negotiate a treaty to protect biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction will be held in September 2018.

President Bachelet of Chile creates an MPA around Easter Island

President Bachelet of Chile today fulfilled a 2015 commitment to conserve the waters around  Easter Island. The MPA, one of the largest in the world, will protect an area about 740,000km2, roughly the size of Chile’s land area. Announced at the close of the Fourth International Marine Protected Area Congress (IMPAC4) in Chile, the MPA will protect Easter Island from industrial commercial fishing, mining and other extractive activities within the Chilean exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that surrounds the island.


The entire Exclusive Economic Zone of Easter Island is now protected from commercial fishing and other extractive activities such as mining and oil exploration.


The preservation of the Rapa Nui’s artisanal fishing practices—fishing from small open boats using hand lines and rocks as weights – will be a key component of the management plans for the MPA and will help preserve the islanders’ way of life. Residents of Easter Island endorsed the designation by a wide margin in a referendum just before the start of IMPAC4; 73 percent supported an MPA that includes artisanal Rapa Nui fishing practices. An island-wide consultation, and the subsequent referendum,  were a direct result of the proposal their leaders presented to the Chilean government in 2015.

Dona Bertarelli commented:

“We are delighted that President Bachelet has designated the Rapa Nui Rahui MPA, which protects one of the last true ocean wildernesses on the planet.  The Rapa Nui have a heritage that is inextricably tied to the sea and we are proud to have supported them on this journey to conserve their ocean habitat for future generations.”

Marcelo Mena, Chile’s minister of the environment commented:

“Chile is proud to have worked in consultation with the Rapa Nui to create a legacy of protection for Easter Island.  This decision was made after an extensive public consultation with the Rapa Nui and the MPA will be the first in Chile to have been supported by a community vote. We are grateful for the tremendous support provided by The Bertarelli Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts to help the Rapa Nui protect their ocean.”

Overwhelming support from the Rapa Nui to create an MPA around Easter Island

On the first day of IMPAC4 in La Serena, Chile’s Ministers for the Environment, Marcelo Mena, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Heraldo Muñoz, announced the results of a referendum held Sunday, 3rd September 2017 on Easter Island for the creation of a marine protected area. The vote, which had the largest turnout for a consultation ever held on the island, resulted in 73% approval for the creation of an MPA that would protect the island’s exclusive economic zone from industrial commercial fishing, mining and other extractive activities while grandfathering in Rapa Nui artisanal fishing.

The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project issued the following statement in response to the vote.

Dona Bertarelli, co-chair of the Bertarelli Foundation said:

“I am delighted that the referendum has given such strong endorsement for the creation of an MPA around Easter Island. This demonstrates the value of working with local communities to achieve the best outcome to protect both their livelihoods and the oceans for generations to come.”

Matt Rand, director of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project said:

“This is a historic moment for the conservation of the world’s ocean, and the protection of the Rapa Nui environment and culture. We are thrilled that, after working with the community for over five years, the Rapa Nui have voted in support of a marine protected area. We are hopeful that President Bachelet will codify the Rapa Nui proposal.

There has been an extensive vetting process with the Rapa Nui and the final decision by the community is to support a marine protected area. This is the important step to hopefully realize the community’s vision to protect their ocean and culture. We have been privileged to have worked so closely with the Rapa Nui on this endeavor over the last five years. The power of this partnership between committed indigenous local people and our outside expertise has been remarkable.

The Rapa Nui have chosen conservation of the environment, their culture and their traditions over commercial exploitation. This should be commended. It’s not often that communities choose conservation over exploitation. Hopefully this sets the course for the rest of our world.”

Easter Island is a step closer to becoming the world’s largest Marine Protected Area

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.

The Bertarelli Foundation attends the 2015 Our Ocean Conference

The second Our Ocean conference has just started in Valparaiso, Chile and will hopefully be the the venue for many important ocean-saving announcements.  Like the first conference which was held last year in Washington DC, this conference will play host to world leaders, NGOs and philanthropists all with the commitment and vision to help secure a future for the ocean.

Dona Bertarelli will be speaking about her support for the Rapa Nui of Easter Island and their campaign to protect the waters around their home.  The Bertarelli Foundation has been working with local communities and with the Pew Charitable Trusts to advance their desire to declare a no-take Marine Protected Area around the island – a declaration that would create the largest MPA in the world.


The Bertarelli Foundation uses satellite technology to detect illegal fishing

An analysis commissioned by the Bertarelli Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts found that Easter Island’s marine environment to be one of the most unique in the world. Due in part to its remote location and vast size, Easter Island’s waters are potentially vulnerable to illegal fishing—a criminal activity dependent on the perception that “no one is watching.”

The Rapa Nui community has long claimed that foreign vessels are fishing illegally in their waters and local fishermen have reported seeing, what they believe to be, fishing vessel lights in their waters at night; buoys and long line nets, which they don’t use, have often been found washed ashore.

The Bertarelli Foundation enlisted the help of SkyTruth, a U.S.-based non-profit organisation specializing in satellite-based remote sensing technologies, to monitor via satellite Easter Island’s waters. Using two different satellite technologies—Automatic Identification System (AIS) and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)—the information collected enabled suspected illegal fishing occurring far out at sea and over a vast area of water to be pinpointed with incredible accuracy.

From January to December 2013, they collected information about most of the commercial maritime traffic, including numerous commercial-scale fishing vessels, passing through the more than 700,000 square kilometer marine area that surrounds Easter Island Province. It is believed that this is the first time that these satellite technologies have been combined in this way and used to monitor a country’s waters for illegal fishing activity.

With data collected through October 2013, including 163 satellite images, 73 vessels were detected in and around Easter Island’s waters. Of these, 31 were identified using AIS (22 cargo ships, 5 fishing vessels, 1 cruise ship, and 3 undefined). More than half (the remaining 42 vessels) did not identify themselves using AIS, and – based on their size and location – were determined by SkyTruth to be commercial fishing vessels. Twenty-five of these vessels were detected within Easter Island’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

The evidence collected so far suggests that unidentified commercial fishing vessels are operating in Easter Island waters, possibly engaged in illegal fishing activity. There is more work to be done to determine the extent of the problem and so the Bertarelli Foundation has committed to a further six months of monitoring in order to further pinpoint when and where possible illegal fishing is occurring in Easter Island’s waters.

Research shows that Easter Island is a regional biodiversity hotspot

Like many isolated oceanic island, the waters around Easter Island are particularly vulnerable to the onslaught of illegal fishing activity. Local fishermen have long reported seeing, what they believe to be, fishing vessel lights in their waters at night; buoys and long line nets, not used by Rapa Nui fishermen frequently wash ashore.  Keen to help the Rapa Nui protect their waters, the Bertarelli Foundation has partnered with the Pew Charitable Trusts to support a local grass-roots campaign on the island.

An analysis commissioned by Pew and the Bertarelli Foundation found Easter Island’s waters to be one of the most unique marine environments in the world. One hundred forty-nine species found here are found nowhere else on earth — that’s more than on the Galapagos Islands. And 27 species listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List are found there, including the critically endangered southern bluefin tuna.

A supporting economic study found that the ocean, and fishing specifically, is an important component of the island’s economy and is a key supporting factor for tourism.  fishing data also suggests that recent decades have seen a drop in catch rates, particularly among key local species such as yellowfin tuna and the Easter Island spiny lobster.

Dona Bertarelli, Co-Chair of the Bertarelli Foundation said:

“I have seen for myself how the world’s oceans are under threat and how important it is that we all do what we can to protect them.  Having met the Rapa Nui and seen the beauty of Easter Island I am so delighted that the dream of a reserve has come true. This is a vital moment in global marine conservation. Not only does it significantly increase the extent of our protected oceans, but it is also an example to the world of what we can achieve with ambition, with cooperation, and with hard work.”