Vast new ocean reserve created off coast of Mexico
Author: Laura Chalk
A chain of four volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean near Mexico, known as the Revillagigedo Archipelago, is home to a brilliantly diverse community of sea life, including dozens of fish species found nowhere else on Earth. The archipelago, which lies 390 kms south west of the Baja California peninsula, is regarded as the ‘crown jewel’ of Mexico and has been hailed the ‘Galapagos of North America’.
Last month, these islands and the waters surrounding them were designated a marine reserve and national park. The decree, signed by the Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, will prohibit offshore mining, commercial fishing and tourism development, aiming to ensure the preservation of this unique ecosystem. The protection zone spans 150,000 square kilometres making it the largest marine reserve in North America.
Mexican non-profit environmental organisations worked with federal officials to establish the reserve. This follows the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recognising the area as a World Heritage site in 2016, acknowledging its remarkable natural beauty and significance as a habitat for threatened species.
"This decree will create a gold standard for marine conservation, a sanctuary for ocean life," said Matt Rand, Director of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project (PBOLP).
The initiative will aid the conservation of a vast array of marine creatures, including migratory whales, sea turtles, dolphins, more than 37 species of rays and sharks and at least 366 species of fish. The surrounding waters, east of Hawaii, are home to hundreds of species of animals and plants, including rare lizards and migratory birds.
The interconnectivity of species in this aquatically-rich area is noted by Mario Gomez, executive director of Mexican environmental charity Beta Diversidad, “We are proud of the protection we will provide to marine life in this area, and for the preservation of this important centre of connectivity of species migrating throughout the Pacific.
One of the biggest threats to the ecosystem is commercial fishing. The area is a breeding ground for species such as tuna, which are currently unable to reproduce fast enough for the rate at which they are fished. The new marine reserve is expected to help the fish recover, as all commercial fishing will now be prohibited, policed by the Mexican navy.
The United Nations convention on biological diversity aims to protect 10% of the world’s oceans by 2020. However, some experts argue 30% would be a better objective if protecting oceans from exploitation is truly desired. Currently, just 6% of Earth’s oceans are, or are slated to be, marine protected areas.
Mexico joins Chile, New Zealand and Tahiti in taking recent steps to preserve the ecological systems in their territorial waters. This new, ‘gold standard’ decree by the Mexican government may serve as a bar to be reached by other nations seeking to protect ocean life.
- Be aware of the rubbish generated at your local beach or waterway, and take any rubbish with you when you leave. Plastic and other waste is a large contributor to depleting quality of aquatic life.
- Find out if your country has, or has planned, a marine conservation zone. If not, join with others petitioning to have one implemented.
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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.
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