Thursday, 16 September 2010

Sala & Gomez Island protection moves forward

The inhabited Sala & Gomez Island is one of the few pristine ecosystems remaining in the ocean. This Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean at 250 Nautical Miles from Easter Island is surrounded by numerous sea mounts (vulnerable ecosystems) and is the habitat of numerous large fish like the Yellowtail amberjack Seriola lalandi and the Yellowfin tuna Thunnus albacores, the endemic Easter Island lobster Panulirus pascuensis, an important population of Galapagos Shark (Carcharhinus galapagensis), and numerous threatened marine birds that nest in the island and feed in the surroundings like the Christmas Shearwater Puffinus nativitatis.

The Island surroundings are areas of reproduction of the species mentioned above. Because of the currents regime, Sala & Gomez act as source of larvae for numerous resources fished in Easter Island.

A recent initiative leaded by OCEANA and National Geographic and supported by the Southeast Pacific Regional Coordination of the WCPA has proposed creating a MPA covering the 200 Nm of EEZ around the Island.

Presently, Chile has only protected a 0.03% of its EEZ. The creation of this Marine Park, the 2nd largest MPA in the world (411,717 Km2), would increase protection to 12 % of Chilean’s EEZ, would protect 18.1% of Chilean seamounts and a 53.5% of the Easter Island Marine Ecoregion. This would situate Chile among the world leaders in marine protection.

The fisheries commission at the Chilean senate has agreed unanimously to propose the creation of a Marine Park including the 200 Nm of the EEZ around Sala & Gomez, except for a small portion facing Easter Island that is traditionally used by Islanders for artisanal fishing activity. Industrial and artisanal fishermen, the Chilean Navy, the Chilean Fisheries Undersecretary and the scientists all support the creation of this MPA. Moreover, the Chilean President is personally interested to launch this as a project to celebrate the 200 years of Chilean independency. This should happen within the next weeks.