Chile establishes the largest marine protected area in the Americas

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Courtesy of Courtesy of Ensia

Earlier today Chilean president Michelle Bachelet announced the formation of Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park — the largest marine protected area in the Americas. Located more than 850 kilometers (530 miles) northwest of Santiago in the Pacific Ocean, the reserve encompasses a surface area of 297,518 square kilometers (114,872 square miles). All told, Chile has now protected 12 percent of its entire marine surface area.

The news comes on the heels of an announcement last week that New Zealand was establishing an even larger 620,000-square-kilometer (385,000-square-mile) preserve called the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

The timing of both new reserves couldn’t be better. In early September, WWF’s bi-annual Living Blue Planet Report outlined the dire state of the world’s oceans, reporting that marine vertebrate populations have declined 52 percent since 1970. The report notes that “the fish that constitute up to 60 per cent of protein intake in coastal countries, supporting millions of small-scale fishers as well as a global multibillion-dollar industry,” are declining precipitously.

The new Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park may be a step toward reversing this trend.

According to a joint press release from Oceana and National Geographic announcing the reserve, the area is home to “undulating kelp forests; abundant fish populations, including enormous amberjacks, yellowtail jacks and deep sea sharks; and fragile deep corals.”

Enric Sala, National Geographic explorer in residence and head of the Society’s Pristine Seas project, went on to say, “The new Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park is a gift from Chile to the world. 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.”

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