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Ascension Island Conservation Project

The peak of a giant, undersea volcano forming part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Ascension Island is an isolated and exceptional British overseas territory.

The 14 Overseas Territories hold 94% of the UK’s biodiversity, but need strong protection from excessive or illegal fishing. Ascension’s waters are teeming with marine life, including sharks, some of the biggest marlin in the world and the Atlantic’s largest population of green turtles.  On land and inshore, Ascension boasts several endemic species, including several types of ferns and fish, and Ascension’s own frigate bird. 

Until 2013, Ascension’s 440,000 square kilometre exclusive economic zone was being plundered by a long-line tuna fleet which was associated with human rights abuses, shark finning and high levels of by-catch.

On 13 March 2019, as part of his Budget statement, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, announced that the UK Government would support the call from the Ascension islanders to create a 100% marine protected area in Ascension’s waters. Later that same year, the Ascension Island Government announced the designation of the 100% MPA.

Ascension’s marine protected area is the second largest no-take zone in the Atlantic and one of the largest in the world. It takes the total amount of protection in British waters from 26% to 32%, thus exceeding Britain’s aim announced in September 2018 of protecting at least 30% of its ocean estate.

The Ascension Island Conservation Trust Fund will be the first such fund to be established for the protection of the UK Overseas Territories and would create a model for other territories to follow.

Cover photo by Paul Colley.

Ascension Island

Key stats

£2m endowment fund pledged for Ascension

100% MPA designated

440,000km2 of mid-Atlantic biodiversity potentially protected

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