UK set to protect four million square kilometres of ocean
Our Oceans Summit announces scientific roadmap towards an evidence-based Marine Protected Area at Ascension Island
On September 15 and 16, Secretary of State John Kerry hosts the 2016 Our Ocean Conference in Washington, D.C., at which actions to protect our oceans from threats and to empower a new generation to lead the way toward a healthy and sustainable ocean have been announced.
In 2015 the UK Government made a manifesto commitment to establish ‘a blue belt around the UK’s Overseas Territories’, including by creating ‘a new Marine Protected Area around the Pitcairn Islands’ and that ‘we will designate a further protected area at Ascension Island’. At the conference Sir Alan Duncan, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland announced “Ascension Island – renowned for its record breaking tuna which regularly weigh in at over a hundred kilograms – last year closed half its Exclusive Fishing Zone to commercial fishing. Its Government has agreed a scientific roadmap to determine the exact location of an evidence-based Marine Protected Area by 2019.”
Alongside this came the commitment from the UK government for continued funding for the duration of this Parliament to help deliver this Blue Belt commitment, in particular in terms of financing enforcement of the Ascension 200 nautical mile Exclusive Fishing Zone.
2016 was the start of a new era for Ascension Island’s marine management with the introduction of a large closed area, a strengthened fisheries legislative framework and stricter licensing criteria. Key to ensuring effective marine management however is an operational enforcement regime, something that can be logistically difficult in remote Overseas Territories with a limited budget. Funding from the Bacon Foundation (through Blue Marine Foundation) was critical in allowing a short term fisheries patrol to happen during the peak fishing season in 2016, as well as funding the management of the licensed fishery and scientific research (including shark and seabird tracking). Further surveillance was conducted by Catapult through a trial satellite surveillance project (funded by Oxford University and RSPB) to provide us with up to date intelligence on potential Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. In April 2016 a scientific workshop, attended by 29 leading marine scientists, conservationists and policy makers, drew up a prioritised list of research needed to help inform effective management and the placement of the final Ascension MPA as well as how to evaluate its long-term effectiveness.
Protecting the unique biodiversity and the marine resources of Ascension is one of the Government’s core objectives and with the great help of international scientists and much needed funding from NGO’s (in particular Blue Marine Foundation) and the UK Government we are on the road to achieving this goal.
Read the FCO press release here.
AIG, 15 September 2016