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World’s largest marine protected area established in the South Pacific

World’s largest marine protected area established in the South Pacific

World’s largest marine protected area established in the South Pacific
February 14, 2008

Kiribati, a small island nation in the South Pacific, has established the world’s largest marine protected area.

The California-sized area is home to eight coral atolls, two submerged reef systems, underwater mountains and other deep-sea habitat. More than 120 species of coral and 520 species of fish have been found in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA).

“Kiribati has taken an inspirational step in increasing the size of PIPA well beyond the original eight atolls and globally important seabird, fish and coral reef communities,” said Greg Stone, vice-president of global marine programs at the New England Aquarium, which was instrumental in helping Kiribati develop the reserve. “The new boundary includes extensive seamount and deep sea habitat, tuna spawning grounds, and as yet unsurveyed submerged reef systems.”

“The creation of this amazing marine protected area by a small island nation in the Pacific represents a commitment of historic proportions; and all of this by a country that is under serious threat from sea-level rise attributed to global warming,” said Russell A. Mittermeier, president of Conservation International, an environmental group that helped fund and plan the initiative. “The Republic of Kiribati has now set a standard for other countries in the Pacific and elsewhere in the world. We are proud to be associated with this effort that helps the people of Kiribati, and we call on governments and private conservation groups everywhere to support Kiribati in its efforts and make similar commitments to protect their own natural systems.”

While the Kiribati government will forgo income that would otherwise be earned by issuing commercial fishing licenses, the New England Aquarium and Conservation International are helping design an endowment system that will generate ongoing revenue while allowing for subsistence fishing by resident communities in designated zones of the protected area.

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