Chile's President Michelle Bachelet created nine marine reserves to protect biodiversity when she signed her final presidential decree on Friday.
The new legislation increases the area of the sea under states protection from 4.2 percent to 42.4 percent. The measure is expected to benefit marine life in approximately 1.4 million square kilometers.
"Who we are and who we can be is inevitably tied up with our 6,400-kilometre coast. This is why it is so important to understand that the sea is vital for our national development," Bachelet said.
The move has gained widespread support from the Chilean population including among a group of students, environmentalists, fishers and workers unions, who marched in the coastal town of La Serena, north of Santiago. The activists showed their support for marine protection and their opposition to mining in La Higuera, a city only 60 kilometers north of La Serena that they say could affect the Pinguino de Humboldt National Reserve.
In January, Bachelet signed another presidential decree creating the Network of National Parks of Patagonia in Chile’s southernmost region. The creation of the 40,500-square-kilometers network was preceded by the largest donation of private lands to the state in Chile’s history.
In December 2017, she successfully ended a five-year negotiation process with the inhabitants of Easter Island to form one of the greatest-protected Marine Areas of the world, which covers 720,000 square kilometers of the Pacific Ocean.
The reserve will be co-administered with the indigenous population of the are, who will continue to fish there.