PIPA conserves one of the world's largest intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems, together with 14 known underwater seamounts (presumed to be extinct volcanoes) and other deep-sea habitats. The area contains approximately 800 known species of fauna, including about 200 coral species, 500 fish species, 18 marine mammals and 44 bird species.
Republic of Kiribati: 408,250km sq
Kiribati first declared the creation of the Phoenix Island Protected Area in 2006. On 30 January 2008, more adopted formal regulations more than doubled the original size to make it at that time the largest marine protected area on Earth. In 2010, Phoenix Island Protected Area was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, and became the largest and deepest World Heritage site on Earth.
Due to its great isolation, PIPA occupies a unique position in the biogeography of the Pacific as a critical stepping stone habitat for migratory and pelagic/planktonic species and for ocean currents in the region. There are 514 species of reef fish, including several new species. Five of the eight islands in Phoenix Island Protected Area are currently designated as Important Bird Areas by Birdlife International. Today there are 19 species of seabirds living on the islands.
The Phoenix Islands Protected Area has been fully closed to commercial fishing since 2015. Howewer Kiribati is planning to open one of the world's largest marine protected areas to commercial fishing, citing economic benefits to its people. The Kiribati government said that when it established PIPA it was assured it would be able to recoup the revenues lost from fishing licences, which make up more than 70% of Kiribati’s total annual revenue, but that this had not eventuated.
It has yet to be voted on, but the implications could be severe. Kiribati catches 700,000 tonnes a year of tuna. More tuna is caught in Kiribati’s waters than in the waters of any other nation in the world.
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