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October 5, 2015

President Bachelet announces marine protection for more than one million square kilometers (386,100 square miles) of ocean

At the inauguration of the 2015 “Our Ocean” International Conference, the President of Chile announced the creation of the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park encompassing a surface area of over 297,00 square kilometers (approximately 115,000 square miles) in the San Ambrosio and San Félix Islands; a Protected Coastal Marine Area and a network of Marine Parks in the Juan Fernández Archipelago covering an area of over 13,000 square kilometers (5,000 square miles); and the expansion of Easter Island’s Protected Marine Areas to include around 720,000 square kilometers (27,800 square miles).

President Michelle Bachelet arrived at the Sheraton Miramar Hotel in Viña del Mar early this morning to inaugurate the second annual “Our Ocean” International Conference, accompanied by US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Chilean Foreign Affairs Minister, Heraldo Muñoz.

“Our Ocean” was initiated by John Kerry to promote the conservation and sustainable use of our seas. The first conference was held in June 2014, bringing together politicians, scientists, world leaders, business leaders, environmentalists and philanthropists from almost 90 different countries. The aim is for participating countries to commit to specific actions and report on any relevant initiatives to mitigate and eliminate the threats to our oceans. During this week’s conference, governments will be reporting on their progress with initiatives announced in 2014.

The agenda for the two day conference (October 5-6) includes issues such as plastic pollution in oceans, which has become an increasingly pressing concern given the 8 million tons of plastic that are dumped in the ocean every year. A significant proportion of this waste is made up of bottles, sponges, fishing nets, plastic bags and packaging, all of which are harmful to marine life. Other issues include the acidification of oceans due to climate change; sustainable fisheries and ending illegal fishing; protected marine areas as a means of protecting marine ecosystems; the participation of ocean island communities in sustainable development; philanthropy for ocean conservation; and the international governance of oceans.

Addressing the conference, President Bachelet emphasized that “all of these dangers and threats transcend borders and require an effective, collective, international effort. It is vital that we act now to protect the future of all nations, above all the small island states and coastal communities that are particularly vulnerable and directly dependent on the sea.”

She highlighted that “Chile has worked tirelessly to implement major new initiatives” and announced “the creation of the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park in Chile’s San Ambrosio and San Félix Islands. This Marine Park will cover a vast area of over 297,000 square kilometers (approximately 115,000 square miles) encompassing the islands’ exclusive economic zone.”

“We have also created a Protected Coastal Marine Area and a network of Marine Parks in the Juan Fernández archipelago, protecting around 13,000 square kilometers (5,000 square miles) in total. With these two initiatives we are helping to conserve the rich marine biodiversity of this large area of the Pacific,” she explained.

President Bachelet also announced the expansion of Easter Island’s Protected Marine Areas from the existing Motu Motu Motiro Hiva Park to include the island’s entire exclusive economic zone, an area of approximately 720,000 square kilometers (27,800 square miles). “We will work alongside the local community to create this protected area which will allow the Rapa Nui community to continue with their ancestral fishing,” she explained.

The Environment Minister, Pablo Badenier, the mayor of Easter Island, Pedro Edmunds Paoa, and members of the “Mesa del Mar” round table signed a Protocol to ratify the agreement. Similarly, a Supreme Decree to create a new policy to combat illegal fishing was signed by President Michelle Bachelet, Foreign Affairs Minister Heraldo Muñoz, Defense Minister José Antonio Gómez, and Economy, Development and Tourism Minister, Luis Felipe Céspedes. President Bachelet and the Foreign Affairs Minister also certified their adherence to the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement.

In her closing remarks President Bachelet stressed that “once the pledges made by Chile are complete, more than one million square kilometers of ocean will be protected, making this one of the largest protected marine spaces in the world. And with the right technical cooperation, our aim is to also put in place the necessary management, monitoring and enforcement systems for these areas.”

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