MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a decree that makes the Revillagigedo Archipelago, a chain of volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean, the largest marine reserve in North America.
The decree, signed on Friday by Peña Nieto at the Los Pinos presidential residence, is focused to protect hundreds of species.
“This wonderful protected natural area is one of Mexico’s invaluable assets, and also an enormous responsibility,” the president said in a speech before signing the Revillagigedo National Park decree.
Made up of four islands, Socorro, San Benedicto, Roca Partida and Clarion, Revillagigedo is located 390 kilometers (242 miles) southwest of the southernmost point of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula and 700 kilometers west of the coast of the western state of Colima.
It boasts a rocky shoreline marked by steep cliffs, as well as volcanoes that are part of an underwater mountain range.
The archipelago and its surrounding waters currently are home to 750 animal species, including sharks, rays, humpback whales, fish and turtles, and 233 types of plants, dozens of which are endemic to the islands.
Revillagigedo, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2016, is not immune from danger.
The archipelago has suffered numerous environmental impacts since its discovery in 1533, including a reduction in wild fauna, pressures from industrial fishing and climate change and the impact of hurricanes.
To remedy this situation, the national park will span 14.8 million hectares (57,143 sq. miles) and “allow the conservation of hundreds of marine species, many of them at risk, and help preserve that Pacific Ocean ecosystem’s connectivity,” the decree states.
Fishing, natural resource extraction and hotel construction will be prohibited within the protected area.
Mexico has established 182 natural protected areas spanning a combined 91 million hectares, six of which have been created since Peña Nieto took office in 2012 for a six-year term.