MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's government has created a marine park the size of Illinois in the Pacific, the largest ocean reserve in North America for the conservation of giant rays, whales and turtles, including dozens of species endemic to the area.
Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto designated on Friday the Revillagigedo Archipelago, located some 390 km (242 miles) southeast of the Baja California peninsula, as a national park.
The four volcanic islands that make up the Revillagigedo Archipelago and the surrounding waters are home to hundreds of species of animals and plants, including rays, humpback whales, sea turtles, lizards and migratory birds.
The archipelago is sometimes known as the Galapagos of North America, in reference to the volcanic Ecuadorean islands whose abundance of endemic species inspired biologist Charles Darwin.
The 148,000 square kilometers (57,143 square miles) area is a breeding ground for commercially fished species such as tuna and sierra.
Now all fishing activities will be prohibited, as well as the construction of hotel infrastructure on the islands.
The Environment Ministry and Navy "will carry out surveillance, equipment and training activities that will include remote monitoring in real time, environmental education directed at fishermen and sanctions against offenders," said Pena Nieto.
The creation of the marine park is expected to help recover fish populations hit hard by commercial fishing and was praised by the World Wildlife Fund and British billionaire Richard Branson.
(Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)