The British government has just announced the creation of a marine reserve almost the size of the UK around Ascension Island, a British Overseas Territory.
Working with the Blue Marine Foundation the 234,291km2 reserve will be the largest in the Atlantic ocean and will close an area of 52.6% of Ascension’s waters to fishing. The remaining 47.4% will be used as a monitored tuna fishery. Scientific research will also be carried out to determine the area that will ultimately be protected and importantly to bring a much-needed alternative stream of income to the island.
The reserve has been made possible thanks to a thanks to a £300,000 grant from the Bacon Foundation. The Blue Marine Foundation has been campaigning for the reserve since September 2014, alongside the RSPB and the rest of the GB Oceans coalition.
Clare Brook, BLUE’s CEO said:
“Everyone at BLUE is hugely excited to have secured such a large and significant marine reserve in the middle of the tropical Atlantic. It is a fitting reward for months of hard work by the team, by our founders, by our ambassadors and by our donors.”
The Ascension Island Government has historically been obliged to sell fishing licences to mainly Taiwanese vessels to raise essential revenue, but whereas fishing will still be permitted to the north of the island, this will now be carefully monitored to ensure best practice is observed, including a total ban on shark finning.
Charles Clover, Executive Chairman of the Blue Marine Foundation, said:
“Ascension has been at the frontier of science since Charles Darwin went there in the 19th century, so it is entirely appropriate that it is now at the centre of a great scientific effort to design the Atlantic’s largest marine reserve.”
Monitoring and enforcement to protect the reserve will be carried out using a combination of satellite and patrol vessels.
“It is important to say that the protection of these extraordinary waters cannot happen without local support. Ascension will be performing a significant service for the biodiversity of the whole Atlantic.” Clover added.