Thursday, October 08, 2015

Chile Creates New Marine Sanctuaries

pristine sea floor, credit: Nat Geo
Chile has created three new marine sanctuaries off its long Pacific coast. The Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park in the Oceanic islands will cover a surface area of 114,872 square miles. Oceana and National Geographic conducted a survey of the region in 2013, one of the last pristine ocean environments around South America. The researchers found a wealth of marine species with no signs of human impacts on the ocean floor. The area is inhabited by a relict population of Juan Fernandez fur seal, once thought extinct. Trawling operations often leave the ocean floor denuded of life.

President Bachelet also announced a marine protected area surrounding the island of Rapa Nui or Easter Island.  Islanders help design the sanctuary's boundaries covering 243,630 square miles of ocean.    They will be able to continue their traditional fishing practices; commercial fishing will be banned. The waters are spawning ground for tuna, shark, marlin and swordfish.

plastic debris in Norway, credit: B. Eide
A network of marine parks will be established in the remote Juan Fernandez archipelago protecting a series of seamounts called Crusoe-Selkirk. Chile is one of the world's primary fishing countries, but with the creation of these new parks it is also becoming a world leader in marine conservation. Mr. Obama addressed Valparaiso's second annual conference of Our Ocean by video link. He contributed two new National Marine Sanctuaries, Mallows Bay in the Potomac River and a 875 square mile of Lake Michigan, both containing important habitat for marine species as well numerous shipwrecks. Secretary Kerry in Valparaiso said the US will begin a program called "Sea Scout" that will provide new technological tools and assistance to detect and target illegal fishing. A satellite based sensor named VIIRS can detect boats a night using lights to attract fish. Secretary Kerry told the conference that human use of the ocean was unsustainable and they are being rapidly degraded through pollution and acidification.