Happy birthday Great British Oceans!

Twelve months ago, with the support of over 100 leading environmental organisations, scientists, journalists and ocean advocates, we launched our Great British Oceans campaign. We were trying to secure marine reserves in some of the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) and ensure that the UK is doing all it can to protect the amazing ocean wildlife and habitats found in these areas.

And what a 12 months it’s been! We’ve seen some of the most significant steps for marine protection in the history of the UKOTs.

Over 1,200 marine species have been recorded around Pitcairn, including whales and dolphins, 365 species of fish, turtles, seabirds and corals (Photo © Enric Sala, National Geographic)

Over 1,200 marine species have been recorded around Pitcairn, including whales and dolphins, 365 species of fish, turtles, seabirds and corals (Photo © Enric Sala, National Geographic)

Since we launched last February, the government has commited to the establishment of what will be the world’s largest no-take marine reserve in Pitcairn – a UKOT in the South Pacific, and a further marine reserve in the waters of Ascension Island – a UKOT in the Atlantic. When up and running, these two marine reserves will protect over 1.07 million square kilometres of ocean – an area nearly four and a half times the size of the UK.

Additionally, in the run-up to the UK general election last May, we saw cross-party support (for the first time in history) for greater marine protection throughout all the UKOTs. In their own manifesto, the conservative party, who went on to win the election, said that they would protect precious marine habitats by creating a ‘Blue Belt around the 14 UK Overseas Territories, subject to public support.’

Ascension Island is home to the second largest nesting population of green turtles in the Atlantic (Photo © Jonathan Hall RSPB)

Ascension Island is home to the second largest nesting population of green turtles in the Atlantic (Photo © Jonathan Hall RSPB)

These announcements were an incredible achievement and mark significant progress for UK oceans. However, they are just the first step towards achieving meaningful and effective marine protection in the UKOTs. The members of the Marine Reserves Coalition continue to work closely with the UK and UKOT governments and communities, to ensure that these commitments are turned into reality. As such, we are pushing for the designation and effective implementation of the proposed marine reserves in Ascension and Pitcairn – and for the government, as outlined in its 2015 manifesto, to work with the UKOTs to achieve a true ‘Blue Belt’ of marine protection throughout UKOT oceans.

Thank you for your continued support and here’s to the next 12 months!

#GBOceans

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Restoring the oceans will take time. We need to act now.