Martin Puta Tofinga, Minister of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development of the Republic of Kiribati, announced the establishment of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area at the 8th Conference of the Parties (COP8) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), being held in Curitiba, Brazil.
With eight atolls and two submerged reef systems, the nearly uninhabited Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) is the largest marine protected area in the Pacific Islands at 184,700 square kilometers (73,800 square miles), twice the size of Portugal. It contains a near pristine coral archipelago with abundant marine and bird life, and is the first marine protected area in the region with deep-sea habitat, including underwater mountains.
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 Islands and Line Islands) with a total of 33 islands to make it the largest atoll nation in the world.
President Anote Tong said establishing the Phoenix Islands Protected Area ensures that the people of Kiribati can always benefit from the rich ocean life of their home. "If the coral and reefs are protected, then the fish will thrive and grow and bring us benefit," President Tong said. "In this way all species of fish can be protected so none become depleted or extinct."
The Republic of Kiribati and the New England Aquarium developed the Phoenix Islands project over several years of joint scientific research and discussions, with funding and technical assistance from the Global Conservati