Mexico’s government has created the largest ocean reserve in North America around a Pacific archipelago regarded as its crown jewel.
The measures will help ensure the conservation of marine creatures including whales, giant rays and turtles.
The protection zone spans 57,000 sq miles (150,000 sq km) around the Revillagigedo islands, which lie 242 miles (390 km) south-west of the Baja California peninsula.
Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, announced the decision in a decree that also bans mining and the construction of new hotels on the islands.
The four volcanic islands that make up the Revillagigedo archipelago, called the Galapagos of North America, are part of a submerged volcanic mountain range.
The surrounding waters, east of Hawaii, are home to hundreds of species of animals and plants, including rays, humpback whales, sea turtles, lizards and migratory birds.
The local ecosystem is central to the lives of some 400 species of fish, sharks and ray that depend on the nutrients drawn up by the ocean.
Photo: Alfonso Reyes/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)