- In 2016 BLUE convinced the UK government to close 52.6% of Ascension waters to fishing. The closed area, 234,291km2, is almost the size of the UK. There is potential to close 100% of waters to destructive long-line fishing.
- This extraordinary ecosystem supports some of the last populations of large fish in the world.
- BLUE is helping Ascension develop new income streams as a sustainable alternative to selling fishing licences.
The 14 Overseas Territories hold 94 per cent of the UK’s biodiversity, but need strong protection from excessive or illegal fishing. The establishment of fully protected marine reserves in Overseas Territories waters is contributing significantly to the amount of global ocean under protection.
In March 2015, as a result of the GB Ocean coalition’s campaign, of which BLUE is part, the UK government announced the designation of the world’s largest marine reserve around the Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific and pledged to designate a further protected area around Ascension Island in the Atlantic, subject to the views of the local community. The combined protected areas of Pitcairn and Ascension alone are over a million square kilometres, twice the size of Spain.
The ‘Blue Belt’ commitment has been described as ‘the greatest conservation commitment by any government ever.’ BLUE’s work is now to ensure that this commitment becomes a reality and that marine protection brings benefits to the small, remote populations of these UK overseas territories.
On the morning of 3 January 2016 the news headlines confirmed, ‘An area almost the size of the UK is to be closed to fishing around Ascension in the tropical Atlantic.’ Articles appeared on the BBC, in the Sunday Times and many other publications. Our tiny charity had secured the largest no-take zone in the Atlantic.
Ascension’s waters are teeming with marine life, including sharks, some of the largest marlin in the world and the Atlantic’s largest population of green turtles. On land and inshore, endemic species include several types of ferns and fish, marine plants and Ascension’s own frigate bird.
But while the Ascension islanders have become the newly appointed guardians of such outstanding biodiversity, sources of income are constrained due to its status as a military island. BLUE is keen that marine protection should benefit the human environment of Ascension as well as the bird, fish and turtle populations.
Since then, BLUE has worked with the Ascension Island conservation team to find sources of funding for Ascension, including delivering half the funds raised in the London to Monaco cycle ride and further funds raised at the Lürssen BMYC dinner in Monaco.
On 13 November 2016, Charles Clover and Clare Brook flew out to Ascension to deliver £138,000 to the island, see first-hand where those much-needed funds would be deployed and to deepen our understanding of how marine conservation might go hand in hand with a thriving economy in the future.
We are so grateful to all the cyclists and sponsors of the London to Monaco cycle ride and to BMYC donors who made it possible for us to contribute so much to Ascension. We hope that this is just the beginning of what we can bring to this remarkable island.
‘Thank you for coming into our school and making us aware of how special Ascension really is.’ Trevor Low-Hong, Year 10, Two Boats School, Ascension Island
‘Thanks to the hard work, grit and determination of Blue Marine Foundation, our children here at Two Boats School on Ascension Island will soon be able to learn about the unique waters around our coastline.’ Janet Birch, science teacher at Two Boats School