Ascension Island, in the southern Atlantic Ocean, is getting a new marine protected area twice the size of the United Kingdom (UK).
Full protection of 443,000 square kilometres of ocean around the British overseas territory will safeguard green turtles, swordfish, sharks, tuna and marlin as well as frigatebirds and terns.
UN Environment Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh hailed the move: “I'm delighted to hear that the UK has heeded our call to fully protect the waters around Ascension Island, a jewel in the Atlantic Ocean. Protecting 30 per cent of the world's oceans need not be a dream.” Currently, marine protected areas cover 7.6 per cent of the global ocean.
Pugh visited Ascension Island as a young boy and says he will never forget watching sharks circling his boat, green turtles laying eggs, and the teeming wildlife.
“Ascension Island is a rare survivor of extraordinary abundance in a sea of decline,” he says, thanking the Blue Marine Foundation, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Great British Oceans Coalition, non-governmental organizations, scientists, civil servants and politicians for making this happen.
Conservationists have hailed the United Kingdom Government’s support for designating all the remote island’s waters as a marine protected area.
United Kingdom Chancellor Philip Hammond used his spring statement to announce the government’s support to the Ascension Island Council’s call to designate all its waters as a marine protected area, with no fishing allowed.
The move is part of the country’s Blue Belt programme to protect millions of square kilometres of oceans in its overseas territories. Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “With a marine estate stretching across the globe, the UK is uniquely positioned to lead the way in protecting the world’s oceans and precious marine life.
“Today’s progress towards fully protecting all of Ascension Island’s waters is an important step forward in expanding our Blue Belt and protecting a third of the world’s ocean by 2030. I hope countries around the world will follow suit.”
Marine protected areas are an important tool in conserving the biodiversity of the world’s oceans.
“Ambitious interventions to protect marine and coastal ecosystems like those of Ascension island are extremely useful,” says UN Environment marine specialist Ole Vestegaard, “not only for the unique underwater biodiversity they host, but also for their valuable contribution to ocean health and function, underpinning food-security and resilience—in essence, a cost-effective nature-based solution to climate change.”
For further information on marine protected areas, please contact Ole Vestegaard