Chile Just Created One of the Largest Marine Protected Areas on Earth

Finally, there’s some good environmental news to celebrate: One of the earth’s largest Marine Protected Areas (MPA) was just created off the coast of Easter Island.

Easter Island is a small island located more than 2,000 miles off the coast of South America that’s otherwise known as Rapa Nui, as are the indigineous people who call it home.

Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet announced the designation at the Fourth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC4), which was held in Valpairaso, Chile.

“The government of Chile believes that public participation leads to better policy with a deeper connection to those who are affected, and we were committed to consultation with the Rapa Nui,” said Marcelo Mena, Chile’s minister of the environment. “That resulted in a vote to approve this marine protected area, limiting extractive techniques to those that are traditional to the Rapa Nui people.”

Now, about 285,716 square miles of ocean in the island’s exclusive economic zone will be protected from industrial commercial fishing, mining and other extractive activities, while the Rapa Nui will be allowed to continue with traditional fishing.

The designation comes after five years of consultations that ended in a vote by the Rapa Nui at the beginning of the month, who were 73 percent in favor of approving an MPA, which helped enable the designation.

“The Rapa Nui understand that a healthy marine environment is directly tied to their traditions and way of life. A thriving environment can help maintain a society’s culture and traditions,” said Matt Rand, director of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project. “This designation begins a new chapter in the island’s history and serves as a lesson to other nations and communities that marine protected areas can strengthen ocean resilience.”

The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project, has been supporting this effort since 2012, noting that the waters that are being protected are home to a vast array of species from coral reefs to whales, including at least 142 species who are found nowhere else on earth, and 27 that are threatened or endangered, and that the designation will also preserve important spawning grounds for migratory species.

It’s hoped the creation of this MPA will not only help preserve marine ecosystems surrounding the island, but that it will also support the culture and traditions of the island’s people, and that it will help serve as an example for the creation of more marine reserves around the world.

Oceans cover 70 percent of the earth’s surface, but less than 3 percent are currently protected as MPAs, and even less than that is considered to have strong protection.

The World Conservation Congress set a goal last year of protecting at least 30 percent of the world’s oceans by 2030. Let’s hope more nations will recognize the importance of preserving marine biodiversity and do more to work toward that goal.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

Melania P
Melania Padillaabout a year ago


Janet B
Janet Babout a year ago


Carl R
Carl Rabout a year ago


Kelsey S
Kelsey Sabout a year ago


Peggy B
Peggy Babout a year ago


Leanne K
Leanne Kabout a year ago

Hooray Chile and the Rapa Nui peoples

Ingrid H
Past Member about a year ago

Excellent. Thank you.

Angela K
Angela Kabout a year ago

Great, thanks for sharing !

silja s
silja salonenabout a year ago

Brilliant ! Bravo !