Malta—The Chilean government announced today at the Our Ocean conference the creation of two new fully protected marine reserves, one around the Juan Fernández Archipelago and another in the area of Cape Horn, covering more than 1 million square kilometers. Chile will now protect 29 percent of its marine surface area, an increase from 4.4 percent, with reserves where fishing and all extractive activities are prohibited.
The new marine park in Juan Fernández will be the largest in the American continent at 485,000 square kilometers. The second reserve, which will protect an additional 140,000 square kilometers, will be located in the most southerly locations in the Americas, starting in the legendary Cape Horn, protecting the Diego Ramirez Islands and extending south to the 200 miles of Chile’s economic zone pointing toward Antarctica.
These two emblematic marine parks designated by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet will join the Nazca-Desventuradas marine park, created in 2016, with more than 300,000 square kilometers, and the Sala y Gómez (Motu Motiro Hiva) marine park of 150,000 square kilometers, created in 2010.
For his part, the Minister of Foreign Relations, Heraldo Muñoz, stated, “We have met the commitment to significantly increase marine protection that we made four years ago in this very conference. Today Chile is globally recognized for its great contribution to the conservation of the ocean, which fills us with pride.”
“Chile has demonstrated that a fishing country can and should protect its ocean. These marine parks will not only allow the protection of valuable ecosystems but will also make possible the recovery of fishing resources that are very overexploited in the world,” said National Geographic Pristine Seas Director for Latin America Alex Muñoz.
The National Geographic Society’s Pristine Seas project and the Waitt Foundation carried out scientific expeditions to Cape Horn and Juan Fernández at the beginning of 2017. The scientific surveys involved scuba diving, shallow-water remote cameras and deep-water drop cameras that reached depths of up to 2,000 meters. The scientists discovered a unique marine biodiversity and higher levels of endemism in Juan Fernández than observed anywhere else in the world. Ninety-nine percent of the fish species surveyed in Juan Fernández can only be found in this eco-region.
The Cape Horn and Diego Ramírez archipelagos have the southernmost kelp forests and represent some of the last remaining intact Subantarctic ecosystems.
The community of Juan Fernández, more than 600 kilometers west of Chile’s mainland, played a leading role in the creation of this large marine park. In May of this year, the community proposed that Chilean President Michelle Bachelet designate this marine area protected Sustainability has been a major concern in the area for decades. Fishermen from the Juan Fernández Archipelago have fished for lobsters for over 120 years using high management standards. This fishery is the only one certified and managed by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in Chile.
The community’s proposal aimed to protect this unique ecosystem and help rebuild important depleted fisheries in the South Pacific, including swordfish, tuna, sharks and jack mackerel, while ensuring the future of the Juan Fernández community’s lobster fishery.
“The Juan Fernández fishing community has become a global model for marine conservation. This large marine park will provide us shelter and sustenance forever,” stated Felipe Paredes, a local leader from Juan Fernández.