Today, just 600 people live on Robinson Crusoe Island, the largest of the Juan Fernández Islands at 58 square miles. The islands remain one of the world’s great natural laboratories with a strikingly high percentage of unique native species. The islands are also home to the Juan Fernández fur seal, once thought hunted to extinction, and the incredibly rare Juan Fernández firecrown, a wildly colored hummingbird.
Robinson Crusoe Island is a World Biosphere Preserve, a United Nations designation that denotes its vital importance to global biodiversity and awards it protections. Yet, just five miles from the shore, the marine ecosystems surrounding the islands are unprotected from the damaging commercial fishing techniques of bottom trawling. This fishing method uses weighted nets to drag the seafloor, indiscriminately killing sea life and reducing corals and seamounts to rubble. It is the equivalent of clear cutting a forest to catch a few rabbits.