Delegates from Easter Island are participating in the opening of a conference on the maritime environment on 4 September 2017 in La Serena, Chile. -AFP / Martin BERNETTI
The natives of Easter Island voted to create a vast area of marine protection around this Chilean territory of the South Pacific, said the Chilean government on Monday.
With the already existing maritime park, the new zone will cover an area of 720,000 square kilometers around the island located 3,500 km west of the coast of Chile and famous for its giant statues.
The waters around it are rich in tuna, sharks, marlins and swordfish. They also contain coral reefs where unique marine species live.
But they are threatened by overfishing, rising tourism and the introduction of invasive species, as well as increased ocean acidity and climate change.
Chile’s Environment Minister Marcelo Mena, who was attending a conference on the environment in La Serena, northern Chile, said Sunday’s vote, involving 642 indigenous people from Easter Island, Rapanui, provided Chile with the largest marine protected area in Latin America.
At the same time, the Rapanui decided that the new protected area would be managed jointly with the Chilean government and that it would henceforth be fished solely on indigenous artisanal techniques.
“This is the culmination of a long process and we believe the fight is just beginning,” said Poki Tane Haoa, a local government official.
“We continue to claim ‘no to illegal fishing, not to industrial fishing in our waters'”, he added.