President Michele Bachelet, whose term is ending this week, signed a decree which establishes nine marine reserves in efforts to conserve the country's marine territory. The new legislation will expand the area of sea covered under the Chilean state from 4.3 percent to 42.4 percent. In addition, it will protect marine life in about 5.4 million square miles of water.
"Who we are and who we can be, is inevitably tied up with our [4,000 mile] coast. This is why it is so important to understand that the sea is vital for our national development," said Bachelet said, as reported by the BBC.
One of the new reserves will protect the area around the Diego Ramírez Islands, a small group of rocks on the southernmost extreme of Chile, home to kelp forests, sea lions and whales. Another reserve will protect the Juan Fernandez Islands, off the coast of Chile, which are rich in plants and wildlife.
In September 2017, Chile also established a marine park around Easter Island, a remote volcanic island home to ancient enigmatic stone monuments.
During her time in office, Bachelet also signed a deal to develop the largest network of natural parks in the mountainous and heavily-visited Patagonia region, in the southernmost part of South America, shared by Argentina and Chile.
Also during her last days in office, Bachelet announced that she would send Congress legislation to replace the country's current constitution with a renewed version that guarantees equal pay for women and gives workers the right to strike.
"This bill establishes the inviolability of human dignity and the respect and protection of human rights, correcting a tremendous omission of the current text," Bachelet said in an address to the nation last week, Reuters reported.