On the 27th February 2018, Chile’s president Michelle Bachelet signed a decree establishing the National Parks of Patagonia Network, along with the creation of new Marine Protected Areas.
Located on the South American continent, Chile’s 4300 kilometers long Pacific coast is home to a range of unique marine and coastal ecosystems and biodiversity, including hundreds of endemic species. However, these ecosystems, among the most productive in the world, are increasingly pressured by industrial fishing, pollution, tourism and climate change.
In order to address these environmental challenges, Chile confirmed in September 2017 the plan of the 740,000 square kilometers world’s largest Marine Protected Area with the Rapa Nui Marine Park around Easter Island. This decision was followed late February by the announcement of the creation of the National Parks of Patagonia Network, as well as the protection of several more areas on the country’s territory: The Juan Fernández Archipelago (the islands’ slopes are home to a mix of tropical, subtropical and temperate marine life), the Diego Ramírez Islands, Easter Island (home to 140 native species and 27 threatened or endangered), the Almirantazgo Fjord and the coastal village of Tortel.
The protection encompasses several marine areas, where industrial fishing and mineral extraction will be banned. Indigenous traditional fishing methods will however still be allowed, notably for the Rapa Nui people, Easter Island’s native population. With President Michelle Bachelet signing this new decree, Chile sees its protected marine areas surface multiplied by 10, increasing from 4.3 percent to 42.4 percent..
Being highly reliant on marine resources for its population’s food supply and livelihoods, and despite being one of the world’s main fish exporters, Chile expresses its will to become a leader in marine conservation, by prioritizing the safeguarding of its marine and coastal biodiversity.