The Government of Chile officially decreed the creation of the Juan Fernández Islands Marine Park and the expansion of its Marine Protected Area during a packed ceremony, thus reaffirming the global leadership this country has achieved in terms of marine conservation.
The decree’s signature marks the consummation of work carried out by members of the Juan Fernández community, who proposed this conservation project in a process that was endorsed by Oceana and National Geographic through the Pristine Seas initiative.
Alex Muñoz, National Geographic’s Pristine Seas director for Latin America highlighted this measure and pointed out that with it “Chile consolidates world leadership in the protection of oceans. If the example provided by the local community and the Chilean government is replicated at a global level, we’ll have a better chance at saving the oceans that are being seriously impacted by indiscriminate fishing”, he said.
Liesbeth van der Meer, Executive Director for Oceana Chile, said that “this achievement belongs to the people of Juan Fernandez. They are the ones that have known how to care for their environment for over a century, and to suggest different protection measures”, adding that “the expansion of the marine protected area will allow them to safeguard historical fishing grounds and continue to sustainably extract lobsters”.
Expeditions conducted by National Geographic’s Pristine Seas initiative and Oceana determined that the islands have one of the highest levels of endemism in the world, meaning species that only inhabit this ecosystem; in addition, 130 important species for conservation were identified, of which 32 are threatened species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The new protected area encompasses a 262,000 km2 marine park and a 24,000 km2 multipurpose marine protected area, where the community will be able to continue to perform low impact economic activities such as artisanal fishing and sustainable tourism.
This announcement places Chile at the forefront of ocean protection, and sets aside a significant area for the exclusive purpose of scientific research, which is crucial knowledge to continue to develop environmental protection.