February 15, 2008

Major Marine Reserve Created in Pacific

The Pacific Island nation of Kiribati has established the world's largest marine protected area, encompassing 158,453 square miles.

The group Conservation International said the Phoenix Islands Protected Area is a vast ocean wilderness of pristine coral reefs and and rich fish populations threatened by over-fishing and climate change.

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) conserves one of the Earth's 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, Conservation International said Thursday in a release.

While the reserve was first declared in 2006, formal regulations adopted last month more than doubled the original size.

The New England Aquarium assisted Kiribati in the development of PIPA over several years of joint scientific research, with funding and technical assistance from Conservation International.