The government of the Pacific island nation Kiribati has announced that it will close one of the world’s biggest marine reserves to all commercial fishing at the end of the year. The Phoenix Islands Protected Area, about the size of California, is home to the world’s last major stocks of tuna. Since creating the protected area in 2008, Kiribati has allowed unrestricted fishing in 97% of the reserve; an estimated 50,000 tons of tuna were taken there in 2012 alone.
“To have such a big no-take zone in such a productive area will allow the species that are fished, like tuna, billfish and sharks to go back to their natural densities and make that part of the ocean whole again,” says Daniel Pauly, a fisheries scientist at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, in Canada. “And that has never been done.”
Kiribati President Anote Tong had been widely criticized for maintaining in public forums that commercial fishing was prohibited in the entire reserve from the start. The planned moratorium, set to take effect on 31 December, “is fantastic news," says Sari Tolvanen, an oceans campaigner at Greenpeace International in Amsterdam.