On Easter Sunday 1722, Dutch Admiral Roggeveen was the first European to visit the remote island in South America, now known as Easter Island. There, he found a society in a primitive state with about 3,000 people living in squalid reed huts or caves, engaged in almost perpetual warfare and restoring to cannibalism in a desperate attempt to supplement the meager food supplies available on the island. Though scattered across the island, there were over 600 massive stone statues that were on average over twenty feet high. Such primitive people living in a those poverty-stricken and backward conditions when the Europeans first visited the island could not have been responsible for such a socially advanced and technologically complex task as carving, transporting and instituting the statues. Could they?
When the first people found Easter Island, they discovered a world with few resources. The island was volcanic in origin, both temperatures and humidity were high and, although the soil was adequate, drainage was very bad and there were no permanent streams on the island. Thus, the only fresh water available was from lakes inside the extinct volcanoes. Also, because the island is so remote, they had only thirty indigenous species of flora, no mammals, a few insects, and two types of small lizards. Plus, the waters around the island contained very few fish. The only domesticated animals that were available were; chickens, pigs, dogs, and rats.
At its peak in 1550, there was a population of 7,000 people in Easter Island. But the lack of resources soon caught up with the residents. Because the people in Easter Island were divided by clans – each of which had its own center for religious and ceremonial activity – it brought space for conflict and competition between the clans. And it is because of these wars that the little resources left in the island were used up. Without trees, and so without canoes, the islanders were trapped in their remote home, unable to escape the consequences of their self-inflicted environmental collapse, turning even to cannibalism.
Thus, by the time the Europeans reached the Island, when the islanders were asked by the visitors how the statues had been moved from one side of the island to another – to seek an explanation, since there were no trees on the island – they had already forgotten, and said that the statues walked across the island.
In Easter Island, according to Marine ecologist and National Geographic Fellow Enric Sala, reported that they saw some of the healthiest coral communities anywhere, but practically no fish. “The water was extremely clear and quite warm. The corals looked healthy, really gorgeous. There were only a handful of species, but most of the bottom was covered by healthy, living coral. Yet I didn’t see a single big fish. The old-time divers here tell us that there used to be more fish, bigger fish, and lobsters. We didn’t see a single lobster today. And most of the fishes were very small, the size of a cell phone. Tiny.”
Easter Island is a high tourist area, and I myself have been there. This Island has gone through tough times over the centuries, and still it hasn’t been able to recover itself fully. Today, the fish population in Easter Island is nearly gone; mostly due to the fact that fishermen from all over the world come here to visit and fish.
Government of Chile; listen to us as we ask you to create a fish reserve in Easter Island, or have few fishing designated areas in order to allow the fish to mature and grow. If not, we may suffer the terrible faith that the Islanders here thought they would never reach, and that is steadily consuming our resources until finally none will be left.