Easter Island near ChileIsland Easter near Chile
At dusk three fishers fill their yachts in a small harbor on Easter Island. However, this way of living on one of the most remote populated isles in the worid, say the locals and nature conservators, is threatened by illicit angling with small craft overshadowed by large and small commercial craft. Many of the 7,000 residents and the Chilean authorities, who manage the island from the continent 2,300 leagues eastwards, see the huge ocean reserve whose maps are due to be revealed early next months.
With an area of 278,000 square kilometres, it would be the largest in the word if it were built around the Pitcairn Isles, the next country 1,300 kilometres to the east, ahead of another from Britain. "Humans who illegally catch fishermen take our natural resource, our currency. According to the plans of Rapa Nui, the 3,000 natives of the island, the reserve would only allow insulans to go 50 leagues into the water and through a passage to Sala y Gómez, small populated islets to the south.
All others would be prohibited from going out for 200 nautical mile, with the Chilean marine threatening to act as a scare-off. This implementation is vital because there is little the island' s inhabitants themselves could do to stop illicit fisheries, says Petero Avaka, chairman of Hanga Roa Tai, another fishermen' s group.
I mean, most folks think the same thing. Sadly, there is no way to check them," he said, and stood next to a stack of buoy and net - something the Rafa Nui never use - which in his opinion is proof of the illicit fleet. The garbage from the Easter Island area is not the only proof of this.
Pew Charitable Trusts and the Bertarelli Foundation, both of which are supporting the new Maritime Reserve, asked US NGO SkyTruth to evaluate the extent of illicit fisheries. A one-year survey combining sat imagery and ship crash prevention information found 25 ships that could be illicit fishery cattle. They need to provide some asset off the coast of Rapa Nui [Easter Island]," said John Amos, SkyTruth founding father.
It is the only one that has iron in the sea and in the atmosphere, although the area presents great challenges: it will take the naval community six working nights to get from the continent to the island. It has this year carried out 10 anti-pollution fisheries missions and blacklisted the world's biggest swimming fishery, the 299-metre-long Lafayette.
The Chilean Secretary of State, Heraldo Muñoz, watched the Russian-flagged vessel first hand from an observer aircraft of the Russian Marines. An ardent supporter of the naval parks, he sees them as an opportunity to bridge the island and be an internationally leader in the field of sea protection. He' s not blaming the people of the island for something they don' want.
Mr Santiago will have to seek the advice of the Spanish government on Chile's commitments under a UN treaty on tribal peoples, which means that an intention to establish the reserve will most likely be announced at an ocean summit next months instead of a president's order. In spite of the promises, the distrust towards the land on Easter Island is great, not only towards the naval gardens, but towards almost everything.
The locals bear a large part of the responsibility for Chile's restraint in dealing with the country's nature reserve. Founded in the 1950' by Chile without the participation of Rapa Nui and run by the state, the country estate attracted around 80,000 inhabitants to Easter Island last year. A non-official "parliament" of the island' s inhabitants short-circuited it in May and demanded that more funds from the 39 pound entrance fee remain on the island.
But he supports the Maritime Parks plans because he believes that what happens on shore does not have to take place at sea. Petero Hito, one of the 150 fisherman of the island, is drawing a card of the suggested borders of the reserve near a flag bearing the inscription'no more marina park'. It stings the 50 miles long inner ring reserved for Rapa Nui angling.
In his opinion, this is also being progressively shut down, in contrast to the plans. Resistance to the plans is relatively uncommon on the island, but a group of five persons, known as Tapu, are opposed because they have resigned from a working group to create the area. Some of the park's main advocates fear that Chile, whose largest industrial sector is coal mines, will not continue the work of the reserve because it would hinder a possible underground metal mine in the area.
However, the mayor's offices and 20 of the island's tourist and fishery federations support the naval area. Pedro Edmunds, the local town' s major, sees it as an excellent chance to reverse the negative feelings about the area. As Edmunds knows, Easter Island is often seen as a cautious story of ecological degradation, a simile of what the whole planet could experience if it exhausted its natural resource.
However, palynchial sampling and carbon radiological dates indicate that the island was sub-tropical before the arrival of the people. Rapa Nui used wood for boat, petrol and nourishment - some of them provide honeys - and transported the Moai people. "I' ve often asked myself: What did the Easter Island man who felled the last pallet say?
Some people at the Marinepark see it as more than a way of ensuring their living and foraging.