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Chile Launched the Largest Ocean Preserve in the Americas

The Desventuradas Marine Preserve puts a Do-Not-Disturb sign on 115,000 square miles of ocean.

by Rachel Pick
Oct 6 2015, 10:00am

This week Chile announced the creation of Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park, which is now the largest marine preserve in the Americas at about 115,000 square miles.

The preserve protects the waters surrounding the Desventuradas Islands, which are two days' trip from the Chilean coast and home to many species that exist nowhere else. Fishing in the area is now prohibited, as is taking any animal or plant life from the park.

As National Geographic learned from conservation analyst Russell Moffitt, many marine protected areas (or MPAs) already established have been "low-hanging fruit"—far from shore, with little to offer the fishing industry. By contrast, the area surrounding the Desventuradas has been fished regularly, mostly for swordfish. To compromise, one area was left unprotected so some fishing could continue.

The ocean "is like a bank account where everybody withdraws, but nobody makes a deposit," says marine ecologist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence Enric Sala. "Marine-protected areas...are like a savings account."

The Desventuradas MPA is one in a series of newly designated "savings accounts." In March of this year, the UK moved to protect a 322,000 square mile area surrounding the Pitcairn Islands. In September 2014, the US expanded protected areas around several atolls in the Pacific, totalling 490,000 square miles of protected ocean. These are all part of a global effort to meet the UN's goal of protecting 10 percent of the oceans by 2020.

This National Geographic-produced video shows us only a handful of the incredible species that call the Desventuradas home, including fur seals, giant lobsters, octopi, sharks, and rays.

VICE is covering the launch of the Global Goals for sustainable development. In the next fifteen years, the UN wants to achieve three massive tasks: end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice and fix climate change. For more information on the Global Goals go to collectively.org.