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Easter Island’s New Protected Marine Area

Photo: MMAChile

News from Chile’s environmental ministry:

In a historic vote, Rapa Nui approved the creation of 700,000 km2 protected marine area in Easter Island.

The announcement was made during the innaugural day of the International Marine Protected Areas Congress #IMPAC4.

Due to their isolation and little connection with other islands, Easter Island’s coral ecosystems have species that are unique in the world, and ancestral fishing practices will also be protected.

In the framework of the Indigenous consultation for the creation of a Coastal Protected Marine Area of ​​Multiple Uses (AMCP-MU), convened by the Ministry of the Environment, the Government held a vote Sunday in which the population of the island participated, who approved the three subjects submitted for consultation.

642 Rapanui residents of the island, Valparaíso and Santiago participated in the process, who had to vote yes or no to three specific questions: whether to create an AMCP-MU that guarantees the resources to the Rapanui people; whether they are in agreement with a joint administration of the area with representatives Rapanuis and 5 of the State; and whether the fishing is done only with crafts and crafts of the Rapa Nui people.

Regarding the first question, 64% voted favorably to the creation of the AMCP-MU; 62% approved the joint administration between the State and Rapanui; and 78% were in favor of maintaining the islanders’ traditional fishing gear.

This is the first time an Indigenous consultation for the creation of a marine protected area in Chile has been carried out. There were only experiences in terrestrial areas, but not with as high a participation as in the case of Easter Island.

Single ecosystem
The Minister of the Environment, Marcelo Mena, explained that “this consultation was intended to respect the will of the Rapanui people, regarding creating a marine protected area that respects the ancestral use of the sea and its fishing habits. It is also part of the government’s commitment and seal to consolidate a collaborative and respectful way of working in the communities of our country. ”

Along with this, added the Minister Mena, “the commitment that Rapanui people have expressed with the protected area we are creating also allows them to be the ones who lead an effective management of this, with sustainable productive practices to recover ecosystems and recover their fisheries, and also consolidate a management plan that harmoniously fisheries, research and tourism.

Rapa Nui Governor Carolina Hotu called the vote as historic on the island, as it is a long-awaited consultation by the community. “It is a great achievement to realize a protected area of ​​multiple uses that respects our ancestral form of fishing and that considers an advisory committee with representatives of the Rapanui people for its administration.”

The voting has its origin in a process of public consultation that culminated in the end of August of 2017 with a record of agreement for the creation of Protected Coastal Marine Areas of Multiple Uses (AMCP-MU) of 700 thousand km2, all of the exclusive economic zone around Easter Island, which consists of 11 points.

Following the approval of the marine protected area by the Rapanui, the Ministry of Environment will submit the proposal to the Council of Ministers at the earliest opportunity so that the President of the Republic can sign the decree creating the protected area.

With this, the government of President Michelle Bachelet consolidates the creation of more than 1 million square kilometers of marine protected areas, since the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park of 300,000 km2 is added to Easter Island, and one network of parks and marine protected areas of 12 thousand km2 in the Juan Fernández Archipelago.

Single ecosystem

Easter Island has a marine ecosystem very different from those of the continental coast, which next to Sala and Gómez Island, make up the province or marine ecoregion of Easter Island. Of tropical characteristics, its waters are warm and low in nutrients.

Around the island and at low depths, some areas have coral reefs, which structure a high biodiversity ecosystem that provide habitat or physical space for other organisms such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs, sea urchins and stars, sponges, among others, as well as are the substrate for algae.
“Many of these marine species are an integral part of the Rapanui culture, as they have been historically captured by them, and are the basis of their food and some, like the pure snail, are used to make handicrafts,” said Minister Marcelo Mena .

Due to their isolation and little connection with other islands, the coral ecosystems of Easter Island have species that are unique in the world or are “endemic” to Rapa Nui. The furthest offshore parts of the island are fishing grounds or “fishing grounds”, where you can catch open water species such as tunas, sharks, mahi-mahi and others.

In addition, the rocky sections of the coast of the island are nesting sites for seabirds. Occasionally, it is possible to spot marine mammals such as whales and dolphins, who visit the island on their migrations.

Several threats now threaten the island’s marine species, such as overexploitation of its fishery resources, increasing numbers of visitors, introduction of invasive alien species, acidification of the ocean and climate change. Several sectors of the island’s marine ecosystem are currently under official protection, such as the Coral Nui Nui, Hanga Oteo and Motu Tautara protected areas, as well as the Motu Motiro Hiva Marine Park on Sala and Gómez Island.

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