By Sophie Hares
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico, March 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Brazil will protect two vast marine areas in a bid to help preserve its biodiversity, meaning a quarter of the country's oceans will be safeguarded, the nation's president said on Friday.
Set for protection are the Sao Pedro and Sao Paulo archipelago, about 900 kms (560 miles) off the northeast coast, and the Trindade and Martim Vaz islands, more than 1,000 kms (620 miles) east of the mainland, said President Michel Temer in a video address to the World Ocean Summit.
Environmentalists, politicians and business leaders met this week at the summit in the Mexican resort of Playa del Carmen to discuss ways to protect and improve the world's oceans.
"Including these new protected areas, we will protect about 25 percent of Brazilian waters, far exceeding the targets we committed to before the United Nations," Temer said.
"This measure will help safeguard our rich biodiversity and renews our commitment to a more sustainable world."
Protected areas can allow fish stocks to recover and help rebuild damaged mangroves and reefs, creating healthier fisheries and securing long-term sources of food and jobs.
The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says nearly 90 percent of the world's fish stocks are overfished or fully exploited as global demand continues to rise.
With the new Brazilian reserves, important shark, tuna and turtle habitats will be protected, said Claudio Maretti, director of Brazil's Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation.
"The importance is biodiversity, climate change, sustainable fisheries but also tourism and the engagement of Brazilian society," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
British entrepreneur Richard Branson, who works with conservation groups including Ocean Unite and Oceans Elders, told the conference they have a target of 30 percent of oceans being protected by 2030.
"If you create a world like you create a farm, and leave areas untouched and then you farm other areas, you can have plentiful fish for thousands of years to come, for 10 billion people without any difficulty," he said via videolink.
Last year, the United Nations said the world was expected to hit its target of protecting more than 10 percent of marine areas by 2020.
In Latin America, Mexico said about 23 percent of its marine and coastal areas are protected, and Chilean Senator Ricardo Lagos Weber told the conference about 42 percent of his country's marine areas are protected.
Belize said it is expanding its no-take zones, which prohibit fishing, resource extraction and other human activity, to cover 10 percent of its marine areas.
"For Belize, a healthy ocean and small-scale fishing are a matter of survival," said Beverly Wade, the country's fisheries administrator, in a statement.
"The culture and health of our communities are intricately tied to healthy reefs and fisheries," Wade said.
The Marine Conservation Institute, a non-profit group, says only 2 percent of the world's oceans are "strongly protected" by no-take zones.
(Reporting by Sophie Hares; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/)
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