Chile will be creating a marine reserve around the iconic Easter Island. The marine reserve, designed to cover 631,368 square kilometers, will be the largest one in the Americas and the third largest in the world, President Michelle Bachelet announced Monday at the 2015 Our Ocean Conference in Valparaiso, according to The Guardian.
The plan will push through after a government consultation with the indigenous Rapa Nui people on Easter Island. If approved, the marine reserve will close the waters from fishing, an effort that the government hopes will keep illegal fishers away. However, local fishermen will be allowed to fish up to 50 meters from the coast.
The Pew Charitable Trusts and The Bertarelli Foundation both applauded Chile's decision to create the marine reserve, saying the move will help protect 27 endangered marine species in the area.
"Creation of the Easter Island park protects one of the last near-pristine ocean wildernesses on Earth and one that holds great cultural, religious, and economic importance to the Rapa Nui people," Joshua Reichert, head of the Pew Environment Group of Pew Charitable Trusts, said in a statement.
"This is an exciting breakthrough," said Dona Bertarelli, chair of The Bertarelli Foundation. "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 Easter Island marine reserve will join a protected area covering 834,000 square kilometers around the Pitcairn Islands, which the British government declared early this year.
Bachelet also announced the recently established marine reserve around San Ambrosio and San Felix islands, known collectively as the Desventuradas or the Unfortunate Islands. The new marine reserve covers an area of 297,000 square kilometers and is home to many endemic species, such as the Chilean sandpaper fish and the Juan Fernandez fur seals, according to National Geographic.
Together, the protected waters around the Desventuradas and the Eastern Island would cover more than 1,000,000 square kilometers.