Britain is now a ‘pioneer’ of ocean conservation

Thursday 15 September 2016

Major UK announcement at Our Ocean conference, Washington DC


Pitcairn's waters are home to incredible marine life, including sharks, corals, whales, dolphins and reef fish (© Enric Sala, National Geographic)

Pitcairn (© Enric Sala, National Geographic)

The Marine Reserves Coalition applauds  today’s visionary joint announcement by the UK and several UK Overseas Territory (UKOT) governments, that over two million square kilometres of British waters will be protected for future generations.

This far-reaching agreement, announced at the Our Ocean conference in Washington DC by the UK and UK Overseas Territory governments, recognises the global importance of our marine wildlife. This commitment will protect these ocean areas from unsustainable and pirate fishing, plus help the world meet its global target of protecting at least 10% of the marine environment by 2020.

It builds on existing marine protection measures already in place in the UKOTs, including the British Indian Ocean Territory ‘Chagos’ Marine Reserve, that covers 640,000 km2, and the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Marine Protected Area that covers over one million km2 in the Southern Ocean.

Today, the waters of the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific, covering 836,000km², have been legally designated as a fully-protected marine reserve.

This historic designation makes Pitcairn one of the largest no-take marine reserves in the world. It will safeguard the pristine habitats, and unique and vulnerable species that Pitcairn is home to, and will put Pitcairn on the global map as a leader in ocean protection.

And in the South Atlantic, three further UKOTs also today declared major commitments to ocean conservation:

  • At least 220,000km² around Ascension Island will be designated a fully-protected marine reserve, permanently closed to commercial fishing. Following an announcement earlier this year, the Ascension Island government has confirmed that an Ascension marine reserve will be established by 2019, following a scientific roadmap process.
  • 444,000km² around St Helena has been designated as a sustainable-use marine protected area, where damaging fishing methods such as bottom-trawling, gill-nets and purse-seining are now banned. These measures will help safeguard the maritime environment that is home to over forty endemic species and supports a diverse array of marine life including whale sharks, humpbacks and turtles.
  • 754,000km² of extremely rich waters around Tristan da Cunha will be safeguarded via a protection regime by 2020. This process will be led by the 270-person Tristan community who call this dormant volcano, the most remote inhabited island in the world, their home. The community are incredibly proud of their marine environment, obtaining the majority of their income from their sustainability-certified lobster fishery.

Recognising that designation is just the first step, the UK government has also committed £20 million over four years to monitor, manage and enforce these protected areas from unsustainable and pirate fishing.

The Marine Reserves Coalition is delighted with today’s announcements, which clearly demonstrate the UK’s leadership role in ocean stewardship and reaffirm the government’s ‘Blue Belt’ commitment to marine protection throughout UK waters.

Further information:

UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office statement




A big thank you to Selfridges Project Ocean for your ongoing support of the Marine Reserves Coalition!


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