The UK has the fifth largest marine zone in the world, most of which is around the Overseas Territories.
Three of those territories, the Pitcairn Islands, Ascension Island and South Georgia and the South Sandwich islands would be enormously enhanced by their waters being classified as fully protected marine reserves – something that the UK government alone can do.
With very little cost, the Government could protect a vast area of water from illegal fishing and loss of biodiversity and make a major contribution to meeting global targets for ocean protection.
This is what BLUE is asking for in its latest campaign, as part of the Marine Reserves Coalition. It is working with Ocean’s 5 and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to petition the government for a single major “blue” achievement before the next general election: a commitment to enabling the creation of marine reserves around the UK Overseas Territories.
Specifically, BLUE and the other conservation groups signed up to our campaign – 18 and counting – want the government to set up a process for considering and designating large marine reserves around Ascension, Pitcairn and South Georgia and the South Sandwich islands. The campaign was launched by Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative MP, in the Commons in in September.
Some 90 per cent of Britain’s biodiversity is understood to be in its overseas territories. It has the fifth largest marine zone in the world, totalling 6.8 million square kilometres of ocean. One of the remotest territories, the Chagos archipelago in the Indian Ocean was designated the world’s largest no-take reserve in 2010, partly as a result of BLUE finding a funder.
Protecting Pitcairn, Ascension and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, would enable Britain to re-establish itself as the country with the largest marine protected areas in the world, a title seized back by the United States in the summer when President Obama announced massive protection zones around American islands in the Pacific.