Arlington, Virginia (Feb. 14, 2008) The small Pacific Island nation of Kiribati has become a global conservation leader by establishing the worlds largest marine protected area a California-sized ocean wilderness of pristine coral reefs and rich fish populations threatened by over-fishing and climate change.
The Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) conserves one of the Earths last intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems, consisting of eight coral atolls and two submerged reef systems in a nearly uninhabited region of abundant marine and bird life. The 410,500-square-kilometer (158,453-square-mile) protected area also includes underwater mountains and other deep-sea habitat.
Kiribati first declared the creation of PIPA at the 2006 Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Brazil. On Jan. 30, 2008, Kiribati adopted formal regulations for PIPA that more than doubled the original size to make it the largest marine protected area on Earth.
Kiribati and the New England Aquarium (NEAq) developed PIPA over several years of joint scientific research, with funding and technical assistance from Conservation Internationals (CI) Global Conservation Fund and Pacific Islands Program. The CI support for PIPA is part of the Coral Reef Initiative in the South Pacific (CRISP).
Kiribati has taken an inspirational step in increasing the size of PIPA well beyond the original eight atolls and globally important seabird, fish and coral reef communities, said Greg Stone, the NEAq vice-president of global marine programs. The new boundary includes extensive seamount and deep sea habitat, tuna spawning grounds, and as yet unsurveyed submerged reef systems.
Located near the equator in the Central Pacific between Hawaii and Fiji, the Phoenix Islands form an archipelago several hundred miles long. They are part of the Republic of Kiribati, which comprises three distinct island groups (Gilbert Islands, Phoenix I
|Contact: Tom Cohen|