Three New England Aquarium research expeditions since 2000 found great marine biodiversity, including more than 120 species of coral and 520 species of fish, some new to science. Nesting seabird populations, as well as healthy fish populations and the presence of sea turtles and other species, demonstrated the pristine nature of the area and its importance as a migration route.
"It's a remarkable atoll marine wilderness area, the most magnificent I have ever seen. The Phoenix Islands have experienced little human impact and this important conservation action by Kiribati will protect the area from future threats including over fishing and help mitigate the effects of climate change," said Greg Stone, Vice-President of Global Marine Programs at the New England Aquarium in Boston.
Protecting the Phoenix Islands means restricting commercial fishing in the area, resulting in a loss of revenue that the Kiribati government would normally receive from issuing foreign commercial fishing licenses. However, an innovative plan will compensate Kiribati for these lost revenues.
Under a memorandum of understanding signed by the Republic of Kiribati, the New England Aquarium and Conservation International, management and enforcement of the Phoenix Islands Protection Area will be financed through an endowment system that will cover the core recurring management costs and compensate the Kiribati government for the foregone commercial fishing license revenues. The plan allows for subsistence fishing by resident communities and other sustainable economic development in designated zones of the protected area.
In creating the protected area, the Republic of Kiribati took a significant step toward meeting protected area commitments for 2010/12 under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Island Biodiversity Program of Work.
"This is a major