In February 2015, the Great British Oceans campaign was launched by a coalition of over 100 conservation and environmental organisations and scientists calling the UK Government to take action to protect areas of significant environmental importance.
Currently only 3% of the world’s oceans are protected to some degree and less than 1% are fully protected from detrimental human activities. While 194 countries have pledged to see 10% of the marine environment protected by 2020, it has been estimated that 30% protection is required to enable ecosystems to recover and function in a healthy and viable state.
The UK Government are to create the world’s largest continuous marine reserve spreading 200 nautical miles out from the South Pacific Pitcairn Islands covering their entire economic zone. The marine protected area (MPA) would cover 834,000 sq km (322,000 sq miles), an expanse over 3 times the landmass of the British Isles. The currently pristine and well preserved marine ecosystem would be protected from damaging activities and all forms of fishing; other than traditional fishing practiced by the local people. The proposition was unanimously proposed by the local community of Pitcairn which has a population of around 60 people.
“The government intends to proceed with designation of a MPA around Pitcairn”, announced George Osbourne, Chancellor of Exchequer, in the 2015 Budget.
Experts estimate that $23.5 billion worth of fish are illegally landed each year, destined for the world market. Monitoring of the Pitcairn reserve shall be conducted as part of PEW’s Project Eyes on the Seas initiative in association with UK-based Satellite Applications Catapult. An approach has been developed by the partnership to enable remote monitoring from a base in Harwell, Oxfordshire. Satellite systems have been designed to establish illegal vessel activity, ownership history, country of residence and can effectively track vessels within reach of authorities in order for prosecution to be enforced. The Bertarelli Foundation has announced a 5 year commitment to support the project.
With Chile are considering MPA designation for Easter Island and Palau, the issue is ever rising within the global political agenda. We support the proposal and hope for further fully marine protected areas throughout the world’s oceans.