Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a decree creating the Revillagigedo Archipelago National Park, protecting 148,087 sq km (57,176 sq mi) from all forms of fishing and extractive activities. The reserve is North America's largest.
The park, Mexico’s largest fully-protected marine reserve, safeguards a chain of four volcanic islands in the Pacific and their surrounding marine habitats, some 800km west of Manzanillo and almost 400km south of Cabo San Lucas. The archipelago and its waters were recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2016.
The islands—Socorro, Clarión, San Benedicto and Roca Partida—are located where the cold waters of the California current converge with the warm waters of the North Equatorial current, creating upwellings that bring nutrients from the bottom of the ocean to the surface. These nutrients help feed 366 species of fish—26 of which are endemic, meaning they are not found anywhere else in the world—as well as 37 species of sharks and rays. And they make the region a critical waypoint for whales, dolphins, sharks, tunas, sea turtles and other migratory species, as well as providing a winter home to humpback whales.
The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project joined local partners Beta Diversidad and the Coalition for the Defense of the Seas of Mexico (CODEMAR) to provide technical and scientific support for the establishment of the reserve, and to raise awareness of the benefits of preserving this archipelago.
Matt Rand, director of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project, said: "We applaud President Peña Nieto's leadership in protecting the rich waters of Revillagigedo. This reserve will protect marine life around the islands and the large migratory species that visit as they traverse the Pacific Ocean; offer a safe haven from many of the pressures humans put on the ocean; and safeguard marine life from the ocean surface to the ocean floor.”
Dona Bertarelli, trustee of the Bertarelli Foundation, said: “It’s clear to me that now more than ever, we need countries all around the world to follow Mexico’s lead. By protecting the waters around the Revillagigedo Archipelago, and all the incredible marine life that lives there, Mexico is joining a global movement to fully protect 30 percent of our ocean—as recommended by scientists and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. It’s an amazing achievement and will ensure a healthy and sustainable ocean for generations to come.”
"Revillagigedo, the crown jewel of Mexican waters, will now be fully protected thanks to the vision and leadership of President Peña Nieto," said Mario Gómez, executive director of Beta Diversidad. "We are proud of the protection we will provide to marine life in this area, and for the preservation of this important center of connectivity of species migrating throughout the Pacific."
All the four islands that make up the Revillagigedo Archipelago are remote, volcanic in origin and offer some of the most unpredictable, wild diving in the world.