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National Geographic Celebrates New Marine Protected Areas at Our Ocean Conference in Malta

Applauds governments of Niue and Chile for new MPA designations; announces creation of conservation prize for world leaders

Today, at the Our Ocean conference in Malta, the Government of Niue announced the creation of a large-scale marine protected area (LSMPA) encompassing 40 percent of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Also at Our Ocean, the Government of Chile announced the creation of two new fully protected marine reserves, one around the Juan Fernández Archipelago and another in the area of Cape Horn, covering more than 1 million square kilometers of ocean territory.

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala, leader of the Society’s Pristine Seas project, shared the news from Malta at the launch of National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey in Times Square via a video feed.

Niue’s 127,000-square-kilometer LSMPA will include the island of Niue, a remote nation in the South Pacific, and nearby Beveridge Reef, an uninhabited, semi-submerged atoll within Niue’s waters that is home to one of the highest density of grey reef sharks in the world.

The announcement is part of the Niue Ocean Wide (NOW) project, a multiyear endeavor by the Niuean community to sustainably manage the island’s resources through a unique public-private partnership between the Government of Niue and Tofia Niue, a local nonprofit organization. As part of the LSMPA protection, Niue will also “lock up” a portion of its fishing area for conservation. This action ensures that the creation of the protected area contributes to an overall downsizing of global fishing, a critical act at a time of increasingly overexploited fish stocks.

National Geographic is committed to working with scientists and leaders from across the world to safeguard the planet’s most pristine seas to ensure a healthy and sustainable future for generations to come. Today’s action by the Government of Niue is proof that any nation, no matter its size or gross domestic product, can be a global leader in the protection of its natural assets.
Gary E. Knell, president and CEO, National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Pristine Seas project led an expedition to Niue and Beveridge Reef in September 2016, in partnership with the Government of Niue, Tofia Niue, Oceans 5, SPC and the Ridge to Reef project, to conduct a comprehensive biodiversity assessment of the remote ecosystem.

As a result of its new marine protected areas, Chile will now safeguard 29 percent of its marine surface area, an increase from 4.4 percent, with reserves where fishing and all extractive activities are prohibited. The National Geographic Society’s Pristine Seas project and the Waitt Foundation made scientific expeditions to Cape Horn and Juan Fernández in early 2017, studying the region with divers, remote surface cameras and depth cameras that reached up to 2,000 meters. Scientists discovered a unique marine diversity and levels of endemism superior to what is observed anywhere else in the world. Ninety-nine percent of the fish observed in Juan Fernández are only found in this region of the planet.

With 1 million kilometers fully protected in marine parks, Chile has become a world leader in ocean conservation. No other country has protected such a diverse environment, from subtropical islands to Subantarctic waters.
Dr. Enric Sala, Explorer-in-Residence at National Geographic and leader of the Pristine Seas project

Finally, the National Geographic Society announced from the floor at the Our Ocean conference the creation of a new Conservation Leadership Award for leaders of countries who have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in global environmental conservation. The inaugural award will be presented in June 2018 at the Society’s annual Explorers Festival in Washington, D.C.

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala launched the Pristine Seas project in 2008 to explore, document and help protect the last wild places in the ocean. Pristine Seas’ partnerships with country leaders, business leaders, nongovernmental organizations and local governments and communities has inspired the establishment of some of the largest marine reserves in the world.

Read more about the Niue announcement

Read more about the Chile announcement

Cleared images with caption and credit info can be found here

About the National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a leading nonprofit that invests in bold people and transformative ideas in the fields of exploration, scientific research, storytelling and education. We support educators to ensure that the next generation is armed with geographic knowledge and global understanding. We aspire to create a community of change, advancing key insights about our planet and probing some of the most pressing scientific questions of our time. Our goal is measurable impact: furthering exploration and educating people around the world to inspire solutions for the greater good. The National Geographic Society’s Pristine Seas project seeks to help protect the last wild places in the ocean. The project’s partners include Davidoff Cool Water, among others. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.org.