Saving the seas: Easter Island’s marine haven

Conservationists are delighted, but some islanders are circumspect about the announcement of a vast marine protected area in their waters

The World Today Updated 11 December 2020 Published 11 December 2015 2 minute READ

James Grant-Peterkin

Honorary British Consul on the Easter Island where he has been living for 15 years.

In October 2015, Chile hosted the second ‘Our Ocean’ global conference, with a focus on marine conservation and protection. By far the loudest cheer greeted Chilean President Michele Bachelet’s commitment to create a Marine Protected Area around its world famous island territory of Rapa Nui, the Polynesian name for Easter Island. When combined with the already created MPA around the neighbouring islands of Juan Fernández, also known as Motu Motiro Hiva, it will give rise to the one of the largest MPAs in the world.

While this sounds impressive, the reception of the news on the island was more muted. Ever since Chile annexed Easter Island in 1888, relations between the two have not been easy. This year saw the island’s National Park – containing hundreds of the world-famous moai statues – being occupied by islanders unhappy at Chile’s lack of protection of the island’s cultural patrimony.

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