Pacific Nation Bans Fishing in One of World’s Largest Marine Parks

Kiribati announces “very significant” step at U.S. Our Ocean conference.

A tiny island nation that controls a vast area of the Pacific Ocean has announced it will ban all commercial fishing in a massive marine park that is the size of California.

Anote Tong, the president of Kiribati—a chain of islands about halfway between Hawaii and Fiji—announced Monday that commercial fishing will end in the country’s Phoenix Islands Protected Area on January 1, 2015.

“We will also close the area around the southern Line Islands to commercial fishing to allow the area to recover,” said Tong, who spoke at the Our Ocean conference hosted by the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. The southern Line Islands also will be closed to fishing by the beginning of next year.

The Phoenix Islands and the southern Line Islands represent some of the most pristine coral reef archipelagos in the Pacific, says National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala, who led the first underwater expedition to the five uninhabited southern Line Islands in 2009 as part of National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project.

Sala’s team of scientists found healthy coral reefs, abundant predator populations, and pristine lagoons carpeted with giant clams and shark nurseries.

Read more: National Geographic Daily News