- One of the world’s most unusual and remote marine environments.
- Ancient Polynesians called Easter Island “Te pito o te henua,” or “The belly button of the world,” and “Mata ki te rangi,” meaning “Eyes that look at the sky.”
- Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995 with nearly 900 moais (monolithic human figures), averaging 4 meters (13 feet) and weighing 12 tons.
- A special territory of Chile, Easter Island covers a land area of 163 square kilometers (63 square miles) with a population of about 5,000, roughly half of whom are Rapa Nui of Polynesian heritage.
- Easter Island and Salas y Gomez island’s surrounding waters out to 200 nautical miles cover an expanse of approximately 700,000 square kilometers (270,271 square miles).
- Home to hydrothermal vents, 40 ancient seamounts, deep-sea stony corals, and sponge fields.
Meet the Easter Island team.
Islands have a special connection to the ocean. They are defined physically and culturally by the vast blue expanse surrounding them. This is particularly true of Easter Island, one of the most remote inhabited islands on Earth.
Located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, Easter Island—or Rapa Nui, as the island, its indigenous people, and their language are known—lies about 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) to the east of the Chilean mainland. Rapa Nui’s closest neighbor, the Pitcairn Islands, is located nearly 2,200 kilometers (1,400 miles) to the west.
A special territory of Chile, Easter Island covers a land area of 163 square kilometers (63 square miles). Its population is about 5,000, roughly half of whom are Rapa Nui of Polynesian heritage.
The province of Easter Island includes its namesake island and Salas y Gomez, lying 400 kilometers (250 miles) to the east, which holds spiritual importance for the Rapa Nui. Salas y Gomez is also the site of the Motu Motiro Hiva Marine Park, declared by the Chilean government in 2010. Together, Easter Island and Salas y Gomez are the only undersea mountains of the vast Salas y Gomez ocean ridge that emerge from the waves. The waters surrounding both islands out to 200 nautical miles cover an expanse of approximately 700,000 square kilometers (270,271 square miles).
World famous for its remarkable monolithic human figures, or moai, Easter Island is also recognized for its unique marine life. These waters support wide-ranging populations of fish species such as tuna and swordfish. Ancient Polynesians expertly navigated these waters guided by the stars and the ocean, giving it the name “the belly button of the world”. From one generation to the next, they passed along their impressive seafaring skills.
Though still largely unexplored, the waters of Easter Island are known to contain geological hot spots and areas of rare biodiversity. Highly migratory fish species, hydrothermal vents, and seamounts ranging from 8.4 million to 13.1 million years old are found here. Additionally, research expeditions to neighboring seamounts indicate that many fish communities are highly local, but that they bear a closer resemblance to Japanese and Hawaiian coastal fish communities than to those of South America’s Pacific coast.
In 2010, Pew’s Global Ocean Legacy program began exploring the concept of a large marine park within Easter Island Province’s Exclusive Economic Zone, in consultation with the Chilean central government and Rapa Nui representatives. A marine park would not restrict current Rapa Nui fishing around Easter Island, because it would include only the area outside the current fishing zone and encompass Motu Motiro Hiva Marine Park. This would create a very large conservation area that could cover a significant portion of the province while protecting local fishing around Easter Island.
View an interactive map of all our Global Ocean Legacy sites.