FRENCH POLYNESIA PROPOSES WORLD'S LARGEST PROTECTED NATURAL AREA
The creation of a marine reserve around the Austral Islands, originally proposed in 2014 by the municipal councils of the region, is close to becoming reality. On March 30, inhabitants of the Austral Islands submitted the proposal to the government of French Polynesia. If the project is approved, it will be the largest natural reserve in the world. It would span 1 million square kilometers—an area larger than Texas and Nevada combined. The reserve will contribute to the preservation of one of the most pristine areas on Earth, home to corals, mollusks, sea turtles, sharks, whales, and many fish species, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. This proposal follows a 2013 commitment by the French Polynesian government to protect a minimum of 20% of its waters by 2020. The reserve would mitigate damages of overfishing and would be an important step toward the United Nations’ goal of protecting at least 10% of all marine areas by 2020, a deadline originally intended to be met by 2012. In 2015, other countries, including Chile, Peru, Palau, and New Zealand, established marine reserves. President Obama announced new marine sanctuaries in U.S. waters in 2015 as well. Additionally, in March of this year, Ecuador announced the creation of a new reserve in the Galapagos Islands. For the full story, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/04/06/these-islands-just-proposed-creating-the-biggest-marine-reserve-on-earth/.