The National Geographic Society and the international marine conservation organization Oceana welcomed today’s announcement of the creation of the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park by President Michelle Bachelet of Chile. The new marine park, a fully protected no-take zone where no fishing and other extractive activities will be allowed, encompasses a surface area of 297,518 square kilometers (114,872 square miles). With the formation of Nazca-Desventuradas, Chile will now protect 12 percent of its marine surface area, an increase from 4.4 percent, creating the largest marine park in the Americas.
“Chile is one of the world’s primary fishing countries,” said Alex Muñoz, vice president for Oceana in Chile. “With the creation of this large marine park, Chile also becomes a world leader in marine conservation."
In February 2013, Oceana and National Geographic conducted a joint expedition to the Desventuradas, which includes the islands of San Félix and San Ambrosio. With a team of all-star scientists and the use of cutting-edge technology, the expedition was the first to explore what was considered one of the last potentially pristine marine environments in South America.
The team of scientists found undulating kelp forests; abundant fish populations, including enormous amberjacks, yellowtail jacks and deep sea sharks; and fragile deep corals. Huge lobsters were also among the highlights of the expedition. The team observed massive specimens — some of the largest lobsters measured nearly 2 feet long and weighed 15 pounds. The deep sea bottoms in this area were found to be in exceptional condition and showed no signs of human impacts.
“The new Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park is a gift from Chile to the world,” said Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and head of the Society’s Pristine Seas project. “It contains pristine underwater environments like nothing else in the ocean, including deep underwater mountains with species new to science, abundant giant lobster and a relict population of the once-thought-extinct Juan Fernández fur seal.”
The expedition resulted in a comprehensive scientific report on the marine life and habitat of the Desventuradas. The report included a proposal to create a large marine park surrounding the islands, expanding beyond the area where Juan Fernández’s small-scale fishermen have caught lobsters since 1901. Fishermen from the Juan Fernández archipelago, more than 800 kilometers south of the Desventuradas, fish for lobsters around the Desventuradas six months every year.
The proposal aimed to protect this unique ecosystem and help rebuild important depleted fisheries in the South Pacific Ocean, including those catching jack mackerel, while ensuring the future of the Juan Fernández community’s lobster fishery. The Juan Fernández community supported the proposal and presented it to the Chilean government.
“The Juan Fernández fishing community has waited for this marine park for a long time,” stated Juan Fernández Mayor Felipe Paredes. “Its creation allows us to protect the biodiversity and richness of the sea surrounding the islands, which have provided us shelter and sustenance for many years.”
The creation of Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park provides an important scientific resource for the world. It is also a significant step for Chile and its commitment to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, which aims to protect 10 percent of the world’s relevant coastal and marine areas by 2020.
Overfishing, pollution, climate change and mass species extinction are all fundamentally altering the ocean’s complex ecosystems. A few areas of the ocean remain relatively unaltered by humans. These pristine places, like the seas surrounding the Desventuradas, are key to the health of the global ocean ecosystem. The hope is that additional governments around the world will create protected areas in order to conserve and restore the richness of marine life and habitat.
About the National Geographic Society
National Geographic is a global nonprofit membership organization driven by a passionate belief in the power of science, exploration and storytelling to change the world. Each year, we fund hundreds of research, conservation and education programs around the globe. Every month, we reach more than 700 million people through our media platforms, products and events. Our work to inspire, illuminate and teach through scientific expeditions, award-winning journalism and education initiatives is supported through donations, purchases and memberships. The National Geographic Society’s Pristine Seas project seeks to help protect the last wild places in the ocean over the next five years. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com and find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+,YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation. We run science-based campaigns and seek to win policy victories that can restore ocean biodiversity and ensure that the oceans are abundant and can feed hundreds of millions of people. Oceana victories have already helped to create policies that could increase fish populations in its countries by as much as 40 percent and that have protected more than 1 million square miles of ocean. We have campaign offices in the countries that control close to 40 percent of the world’s wild fish catch, including in North, South and Central America, Asia and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.
For photos and video related to the National Geographic/Oceana Desventuradas news, visit http://press.nationalgeographic.com/downloads/sala_enric/desventuradas (user name: press / password: press).