More than 100 celebrities, scientists and environmental leaders have backed a campaign urging the UK government to create vast marine reserves around three overseas territories.
The UK has the fifth largest marine zone in the world, mostly around the Overseas Territories, and by fully protecting waters off Ascension Island, the Pitcairn Islands, and South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands more than 1.75 million km² of ocean would be safeguarded.
Helena Bonham Carter, Gillian Anderson and Greta Scacchi are among the celebrities to have signed an open letter backing the campaign by a coalition of conservation and science groups calling for action.
Ms Bonham Carter went so far as to strip off to be photographed with a bigeye tuna to support the campaign and to generate media attention. “We all have a responsibility to try and return our world to the next generation in the state we inherited it in, not worse,” she said. “It would be a sad thing if in our dotage we’d be describing a tuna fish to our grandchildren like we a dodo today.”
She added: “I am a big supporter of protecting the marine environment. I’m actually very phobic about fish so when Greta [Scacchi] asked me to be photographed naked with a 27kg tuna I was more worried about touching it than getting my kit off.”
Charles Clover, chairman of BLUE, was one of the signatories of the letter which had 42 leading environment and scientific organisations represented – including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the National Geographic Society and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
BLUE, as part of the Marine Reserves Coalition (MRC), has spearheaded the campaign to get the UK government to protect the waters of the largest overseas territories.
The UK government is considering the proposals which BLUE has argued would, at very little cost, protect huge expanses of the ocean from illegal fishing and loss of biodiversity, while making a major contribution to meeting global targets for ocean protection.
Charles Clover said: “If we are serious about reversing the problem of overfishing in the world’s oceans all agree we need large marine reserves. Britain has probably the biggest global opportunity to create them in strategic places – including the first major one in the tropical Atlantic. It has 14 overseas territories and it should be thinking about protecting large areas in as many of them as possible.”
More than 94 per cent of the UK’s biodiversity is found in its overseas territories and some of their species are found nowhere else in the world.
Rare whales, turtles, fish, penguins, corals and albatrosses are among the wildlife that would benefit if the reserves were to be set up.
Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, the campaigning chef and broadcaster, said in an article published in The Times [http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/article4348056.ece] called on the government to show “global leadership”.
He wrote: “We don’t want to live in a world where turtles no longer roam our seas, where seabirds become extinct, where our children cannot enjoy the diversity and immense beauty of our planet. We must act now, before our marine biodiversity is lost for ever.”
Campaigners say safeguarding the waters around Ascension, Pitcairn and the South Sandwich Islands would increase the area of fully protected oceans by 50 per cent and would go some way towards meeting the international target of protecting 10 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2020.
BLUE has been working with other conservation groups on the overseas territories for most of this term of Parliament. The campaign for the three territories became public in September when the campaign was launched in the House of Commons by MP Zac Goldsmith.
Fully protecting all their waters would cover an area of sea nearly three times the size of France.
The letter and the organisations backing it are published below:
GREAT BRITISH OCEANS
MARINE RESERVES COALITION and RSPB
Statement of support for the creation of marine reserves in the UK Overseas Territories of the
Pitcairn Islands, Ascension Island, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
The UK has the fifth largest area of ocean in the world under its jurisdiction when its Overseas
Territories (UKOTs) are taken into account. Over 94% of the UK’s unique biodiversity is found in
the UKOTs, which support a large number of rare and threatened species and habitats found
nowhere else on Earth. It makes good economic and environmental sense for the UK to work
with its Territories to establish effective networks of marine protected areas throughout all
waters under UK jurisdiction.
We the undersigned are calling on the British government to protect over 1.75 million km² of
the world’s oceans by creating large‐scale and fully‐protected marine reserves in three of the
UKOTs – the Pitcairn Islands, Ascension Island, and South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands.
Pitcairn Islands (834,000km²)
With unanimous support from the local community and Pitcairn Island Council, a marine reserve
in Pitcairn would offer protection to some of the most pristine waters and coral reefs on earth,
providing international recognition and connecting this Territory to global marine science and
Ascension Island (443,000km²)
A green turtle mecca and one of the last remaining hotspots for Atlantic megafauna such as
tuna, marlin and shark. Ascension’s waters offer a rare opportunity for large‐scale marine
protection in the tropical Atlantic.
South Sandwich Islands (530,000 km²)
Uninhabited by humans, the volcanic South Sandwich Islands host huge concentrations of
wildlife, including vast penguin colonies and significant whale populations.
The UK Government can fully protect these areas from all extractive and damaging activity
today. This would make a globally significant contribution to ocean conservation, leaving a
historic legacy for people and wildlife at very little cost.
1. A Focus on Nature
2. A Rocha
3. Army Ornithological Society
5. Birdlife International
6. Blue Marine Foundation
7. Blue Ventures
8. Chagos Conservation Trust
9. Coral Restoration Foundation Europe
10. Coral Restoration Foundation International
11. Environmental Investigation Agency
12. Fauna and Flora International
13. Fin Fighters UK
14. Fish Fight
15. Galapagos Conservation Trust
16. Greenpeace UK
17. International National Trusts
18. International Union for the Conservation of Nature
19. Linnean Society
20. Marine Conservation Institute
21. Marine Conservation Society
22. Mission Blue
23. National Geographic Society
24. National Marine Aquarium
25. New Economics Foundation
27. Oceans 5
29. Pew Charitable Trusts
30. Plymouth University Marine Institute
31. Project Seahorse
32. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
33. Selfridges Project Ocean
34. Shark and Coral Conservation Trust
35. Shark Trust
36. The Blackfish
37. The Deep
38. The Waitt Foundation
39. The Waitt Institute
40. Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
41. World Animal Protection
42. Zoological Society of London
43. Professor Martin J. Attrill Marine Institute, Plymouth University
44. Professor Jonathan Baillie Director of Conservation, Zoological Society of London
45. Dr Courtney Couch Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, Hawaii University
46. Mr David Curnick University College London
47. Dr Andrew Davies School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University
48. Professor Terry Dawson University of Dundee
49. Dr Nick Dulvy Canada Research Chair in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, Simon Fraser University
50. Dr Sylvia Earle Mission Blue
51. Professor Graham Edgar University of Tasmania
52. Dr Lucy Gilliam Expedition
53. Dr Nicholas Graham James Cook University
54. Dr Matthew Gollock Zoological Society of London
55. Dr Al Harris Director, Blue Ventures
56. Dr Nicholas Hill Zoological Society of London
57. Mr Robert Irving Sea-Scope
58. Dr Elin Kelsey The Cairns Institute, James Cook University
59. Dr Heather Koldewey Head of Global Programmes, Zoological Society of London
60. Professor Dan Laffoley Vice Chair, World Commission on Protected Areas
61. Dr Tom Letessier Zoological Society of London, Chagos Consortium
62. Dr Carl Lundin Director, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme
63. Professor Jessica Meeuwig University of Western Australia
64. Dr Mark Mulligan Kings College London
65. Professor Ken Norris Director of Science, Zoological Society of London
66. Professor Elliott Norse Marine Conservation Institute
67. Dr Daniel Pauly University of British Columbia
68. Dr Jurgenne Primavera Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation
69. Mr Peter Raines MBE Coral Restoration International
70. Professor Callum Roberts University of York
71. Professor Alex Rogers Oxford University
72. Dr Enric Sala National Geographic
73. Professor Charles Sheppard University of Warwick
74. Dr Michelle Taylor Oxford University
75. Mr David Tickler University of Western Australia
76. Professor Amanda Vincent University of British Columbia
77. Dr Elizabeth Widman University of Warwick/Chagos Conservation Trust
78. Dr Elizabeth Wood Marine Conservation Society
79. Professor Rosie Woodroffe Senior Research Fellow, Zoological Society of London
80. Dr Chris Yesson Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London
81. Ms Gillian Anderson Actress
82. Mr Mark Avery Writer, wildlife expert and conservationist
83. Ms Helena Bonham Carter Actress
84. Dr Arlo Brady Managing Director, Freuds
85. Mr Colin Chester Ascension Island Fishing Charter
86. Ms Julie Christie Actress
87. Mr Charles Clover Writer
88. Mr George Duffield Film maker & philanthropist
89. Mr Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Writer and broadcaster
90. Mr Tony Juniper Campaigner, writer, sustainability adviser and environmentalist
91. Mr Stuart McPherson Naturalist and explorer
92. Mr George Monbiot Writer
93. Ms Tamsin Omond Environmental activist
94. Mr Chris Packham Naturalist and TV presenter
95. Ms Anne Pitcher Managing Director, Selfridges
96. Mr Jonathan Porritt Environmentalist and writer
97. Mr Lewis Pugh Ocean advocate, maritime lawyer and pioneer swimmer
98. Mr Nicky Rohl Fishlove
99. Mr Paul Rose Explorer and BBC presenter
100. Ms Greta Scacchi Actress
101. Mr Nigel Stansfield Vice President & Chief Innovations Officer, Interface Inc.
102. Ms Zoe Wanamaker Actress
103. Mr Wieste van der Werf Founder, The Blackfish
104. Ms Alannah Weston Deputy Chairman, Selfridges Group
105. Ms Olivia Williams Actress
106. Ms Elisabeth Whitebread Ocean Optimism