We write about marine reserves whenever we hear of a new initiative, and try to keep up with the progress of those as we can. The Guardian is reporting here on a new one; if Helena is in, we are in to support this as we can, and will post updates as available:
Conservationists call for UK to create world’s largest marine reserve
Three proposed reserves in UK waters around the Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific, and Ascension Island and South Sandwich Islands in the Atlantic, would more than double the size of the world’s existing marine protected areas
Pressure is mounting on the UK government and opposition parties to commit to creating at least one massive marine reserve in the Pacific or Atlantic to protect rare and threatened whales, sharks, fish and corals ahead of the general election.
A coalition of over 100 conservation groups, prominent academics and film and TV celebrities have called on the Foreign Office to declare full protection zones around the Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific ocean, as well as Ascension Island and the South Sandwich Islands in the Atlantic. The three proposed reserves would together protect around 1.8m sq km (0.7m sq miles) of ocean and more than double the size of the world’s existing marine protected areas (MPA).
Declaring just one of the three proposed reserves ahead of the election would go some way to correcting the government’s perceived loss of environmental credibility, says the coalition which includes Greenpeace UK, the RSPB and the Blue Marine Foundation, as well as international groups including the National Geographical Society and the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Gillian Anderson, Julie Christie and Helena Bonham-Carter are among the celebrities who have also signed a statement declaring that the creation of the reserves would make a “globally significant contribution to ocean conservation leaving a historic legacy for people and wildlife at very little cost.”
“The UK government has the opportunity to take global leadership in marine conservation, increasing the amount of the world’s ocean under full protection by 50%. These waters are amongst the most diverse on earth, with the British overseas territories housing 94% of the UK’s unique biodiversity,” said the coalition in a statement.
“If left unprotected these fragile ecosystems face huge threats from overfishing, illegal pirate fishing, pollution and climate change,” it said.
Britain was praised worldwide in 2009 when then foreign secretary David Miliband declared the world’s largest marine reserve around the Chagos archipelago in the Indian ocean days before the general election.
But this later proved contentious because the reserve appeared to preclude any resettlement of the atolls by islanders whose families had been evicted in 1965 to make way for a giant US air force base. This is now being negotiated.
Of the three reserves proposed by the coalition of conservationists, the least likely is one around the uninhabited South Sandwich islands because of its proximity to the Falklands. But in a statement the Foreign office said that it had started discussions with people living on Ascension island and Pitcairn.
“No decisions have been taken about designating marine protected areas around Pitcairn or Ascension but we are working with both territory governments and other stakeholders to determine the feasibility of establishing MPA in these territories,” it said.
“Government supports marine protected areas where they are scientifically justifiable and where an effective monitoring and enforcement regime can be established and funded,” it added.
It is understood that any MPA created would ban all commercial fishing around the inhabited islands but allow indigenous fishing to continue up to 18 miles offshore…
Read the whole article here.