Mexico Creates Pacific Marine Sanctuary


Late in 2017, the Mexican government created a large marine reserve around a group of islands that is home to hundreds of species including rays, whales and sea turtles. With a protection zone of 57,000 square miles (150,000 km), it has become the largest ocean reserve in North America. The park was designated by a decree signed by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

The rich waters surrounding this area are a critical habitat for numerous species and had already been recognized in 2016 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The Revillagigedo Archipelago, part of a submerged volcanic mountain range, is located about 250 miles south of the Baja California peninsula. There, two ocean currents collide and draw up nutrients that help feed some 400 species of fish, sharks and rays. The area is also an important site for whales, dolphins and seabirds. The Revillagigedo Archipelago National Park spans more than 57,000 square miles — roughly the size of the state of Georgia in the United States.

The United Nations has established a goal of protecting 10 percent of the world’s oceans by 2020. Joining the growing global effort to safeguard the world’s oceans movement in recent years have been Chile, New Zealand and Tahiti.

Establishing this reserve means that all fishing activity will be banned, and the area will be patrolled by the navy. This will help populations hit by commercial fishing operations in the area to recover. It will also forbid natural resources being extracted from the land or the building of new hotel infrastructure.

Matt Rand, director of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project, in an article by HuffPost, noted that “It wasn’t an easy decision because they had significant opposition from the commercial fishing industry, which I think is unfortunate. I would love to see a commercial industry embrace this notion that certain areas should be protected.”

During the 2015 Our Ocean conference in Valparaiso, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced the creation of both the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park, located some 550 miles off the coast of Chile — giving that country claim to the largest marine reserve in the Americas — and the Easter Island Marine Park, which will be the third-largest fully protected marine area in the world. The Easter Island reserve bumped New Zealand’s Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary to the No. 4 spot.

Unfortunately in the United States, President Donald Trump is considering shrinking two marine national monuments in the Pacific — Rose Atoll and the Pacific Remote Islands — as well as opening those and a third — Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, off the coast of New England — to commercial fishing.