Marine expeditions carried out by international scientists have identified the world's largest concentration of unique aquatic species at the Juan Fernandez Archipelago and the Desventuradas Islands, a group of Chilean islands in the South Pacific, the marine conservation organization Oceana said.
A report based on two "unprecedented expeditions" in 2014 and 2015 reveals that the Robinson Crusoe and Santa Clara Islands, along with the underwater Seamounts JF1 and JF2 at the Juan Fernandez Archipelago, have the highest levels of endemic species of any oceanic ecosystem in the world.
"We were missing a scientific study that could provide details about the actual amount of life existing in our marine ecosystems," Juan Fernandez Mayor Felipe Paredes said.
"The outcomes were quite surprising for us. While we had some idea, we were surprised to learn about the enormous amount of life thriving in these waters. This certainly poses a challenge in terms of managing and preserving these ecosystems for future generations," Paredes said.
The scientists, according to the study, found that of the different kinds of fish around the Robinson Crusoe and Santa Clara Islands, 87.5 percent were of endemic species, a proportion similar to that found at the Desventuradas Islands, and above what has been reported at Easter Island and Hawaii, all in the Pacific Ocean.
"About 62% of reef fish species known in Juan Fernandez and Desventuradas only live there. This is two to three times higher than in other areas known for their endemism, such as Hawaii and Easter Island, where 25% and 22% of fish, respectively, are endemic," Alan Friedlander, of the University of Hawaii and leader of the expedition, said.
In October 2015, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced the creation of the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park, the largest in the Americas with 298,000 sq. kilometers (115,000 sq. miles), to protect the islands and permit the recovery of species in the waters around them. EFE