Great British Oceans
Protecting British seas for our planet and for the future
With its 14 Overseas Territories, the United Kingdom is responsible for the fifth largest area of ocean in the world, measuring 6.8 million square kilometres, over twice the size of India and nearly 30 times the size of the UK itself.
Britain’s territories host the clearest water ever recorded, the largest coral atoll in the world, more penguins than any other nation, and breeding grounds for globally endangered turtles. These fragile and unique ecosystems face increasing threat from excessive, as well as illegal pirate fishing, pollution and climate change. Left unchallenged, unsustainable human activity in these waters will cause irreparable harm to these extraordinary marine ecosystems and the threatened species they support.
With such an expansive area of ocean under its jurisdiction, the UK has a great opportunity to safeguard globally significant marine life throughout its Territories.
In 2010, the UK government took the first step by establishing the Chagos Marine Reserve in the British Indian Ocean Territory, covering 640,000 km2. This was followed in 2015 by the UK government announcing its intention to establish the world’s largest fully protected marine reserve, covering 834,000 km2, around the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. The Pitcairn Marine Reserve is expected to be officially designated and implemented later this year.
2016 began with yet a further announcement by the UK government; this time of its intent to create a marine reserve in the waters of Ascension Island, a Territory in the Atlantic Ocean. Under current plans, when this reserve is designated is will cover 234,291 km2 (around 50% of Ascension’s waters), making it the only large-scale marine reserve in the Atlantic.
Once fully designated and implemented, these reserves will contribute significantly towards the government’s commitment to create a ‘Blue Belt’ of protected ocean around the UK Overseas Territories.
Our coalition continues to work with the government and the Territories, to help ensure this commitment is realised, delivering real conservation benefits to our marine biodiversity.