Small Kiribati island is world’s largest marine reserve

February 15th, 2008 - 8:00 pm ICT by admin  

Wellington, Feb 15 (Xinhua) The small Pacific island of Kiribati has been declared the world’s largest marine protected area, the Suva-based Pacnews reported Friday. The Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), a California-sized ocean wilderness, includes pristine reefs and eight coral atolls teeming with fish and birds.

It lies between Hawaii and Fiji and also includes undersea mountains. It would conserve one of the Earth’s last intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems.

Kiribati Environment Minister Tetapo Nakara said the government wanted to conserve the area’s “biological diversity”.

“The coral reefs and bird populations of the islands are unique, virtually untouched by man - a true wilderness of natural beauty,” he said, announcing the marine reserve Thursday.

Nakara said his ministry hopes to fully establish the 164,200 sq mile area as a protected zone by the end of the year with the goal of attracting more tourists to Kiribati - an impoverished coral atoll nation of about 95,000 people.

About 50 people live on one of the protected atolls.

The plan does not come without costs. Some commercial fishing in the area would be restricted, meaning the Kiribati government would forego some revenue from the foreign commercial fishing licenses.

The government hopes to boost tourism, which now accounts for 20 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. It has already applied to have the marine reserve listed as a World Heritage site.

Kiribati and Boston-based New England Aquarium conducted joint scientific research in the area for several years with funding and technical aid from Conservation International.

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