US, Chile de­clare marine re­serves, fight over­fish­ing


U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama de­clared new marine sanc­tu­ar­ies in Lake Michigan and the tidal wa­ters of Mary­land on Mon­day, while Chile blocked off more than 500,000 square kilo­me­ters (200,00 miles) of the Pa­cific Ocean near the world-fa­mous Easter Is­land from com­mer­cial fish­ing and oil and gas ex­plo­ration.

The an­nounce­ments came as top of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry, at­tended an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence on marine pro­tec­tion in the Chilean port city of Val­paraiso. Sev­eral na­tions also out­lined plans for trac­ing seafood im­ports to com­bat over­fish­ing and stem­ming in­creased pol­lu­tion in the ocean.

The new pro­tected wa­ters in the United States are the first to be des­ig­nated as such in 15 years, the White House said in a state­ment.

The 2,260- square kilo­me­ter (875-square mile) area of Wis­con­sin’s Lake Michigan ex­tends from Port Washington to Two Rivers, con­tain­ing a col­lec­tion of 39 known shipwrecks. Fif­teen are listed on the Na­tional Register of His­toric Places.

The Mal­lows Bay- Po­tomac River in Mary­land en­com­passes a 36-square kilo­me­ter (14-square mile) area of the tidal Po­tomac River next to Charles County. Nearly 200 ves­sels, some dat­ing to the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War, are found in the largely un­de­vel­oped area that pro­vides habi­tat for en­dan­gered species of wildlife and fish.

The ac­tions are the latest in a se­ries of en­vi­ron­men­tal steps by Obama, who last year set aside some 1 mil­lion square kilo­me­ters (400,000 square miles) of the cen­tral Pa­cific Ocean from com­mer­cial fish­ing, deep sea min­ing and other forms of re­source ex­trac­tion. The Pa­cific Re­mote Is­lands Marine Na­tional Mon­u­ment is now the larg- est marine re­serve in the world.

In a video­taped mes­sage to con­fer­ence par­tic­i­pants, Obama re­called his child­hood in Hawaii and In­done­sia and said he al­ways main­tained “a spe­cial love for the ocean.”

‘Sea Scout,’ ‘Trace­abil­ity’

“Our economies, our liveli­hoods and our food all de­pend on our oceans,” he said, “and yet we know that our ac­tions are chang­ing them. Green­house gas emis­sions are mak­ing our seas warmer and more acidic. Marine pol­lu­tion harms fish and wildlife, af­fect­ing the en­tire food chain. Illegal fish­ing de­pletes the world’s fish­eries.”

Obama said he would seek to pro­tect more Amer­i­can wa­ters in the com­ing months.

Chile made its own am­bi­tious dec­la­ra­tion, cor­don­ing off a vast ex­panse of the South Pa­cific Ocean.

Pres­i­dent Michelle Bachelet said the new marine park would pro­tect the an­ces­tral species of Rapa Nui, the name used by the na­tive Poly­ne­sians of Easter Is­land, which is cel­e­brated for its hun­dreds of hu­man stat­ues carved out of vol­canic rock. She was joined by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the is­land, who clapped their hands and sang af­ter the an­nounce­ment was made. Bachelet called it the third-largest pro­tected marine zone world­wide.

Bri­tain, Gabon, Kiri­bati, New Zealand and Palau have taken steps as well to pro­tect sec­tions of the sea in re­cent months.

The “Our Ocean” con­fer­ence also tar­geted marine pol­lu­tion re­sult­ing from dis­carded plas­tics and in­creas­ing lev­els of ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion, which dam­ages coral reefs and shell­fish pop­u­la­tions. Such con­cerns are shared by the U.S., which im­ports 90 per­cent of the fish it con­sumes, and Chile, whose coast­line of al­most 4,000 kilo­me­ters (2,500 miles) is vi­tal to the econ­omy.

To ad­dress over­fish­ing, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced a global ini­tia­tive, “Sea Scout,” to iden­tify un­reg­u­lated and un­re­ported ac­tiv­ity, and help pros­e­cute illegal fish­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions. The U.S. Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion is ex­pand­ing a pro­gram for de­tect­ing boats that use lights to at­tract fish­ery catch at night and will im­ple­ment it in In­done­sia, the Philip­pines and three other coun­tries next year.

The “trace­abil­ity” ini­tia­tive is sup­posed to start for the most com­monly ex­ported fish species such as tuna, cod, shrimp and crab in Septem­ber 2016. It would ap­ply to all fish a year later and is de­signed to pro­vide a full ac­count­ing of where ex­porters are get­ting their catch and whether they are op­er­at­ing in a sus­tain­able man­ner. Any­one who wants to ex­port fish to the United States would have to ad­here to the con­di­tions. The pro­gram needs fi­nal ap­proval from the U.S. Se­nate and sev­eral ad­di­tional coun­tries be­fore en­ter- ing into force.

“There is lit­er­ally too much money chas­ing too much fish,” Kerry told the con­fer­ence. A third of the world’s fish stocks are over­ex­ploited, he said, call­ing over­fish­ing a US$10 bil­lion-a-year in­dus­try.


A man from Easter Is­land dances as U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry, be­hind, is given an Easter Is­land flag on the side­lines of the Our Ocean in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence on marine pro­tec­tion in Vina del Mar, Chile, Mon­day, Oct. 5.

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