British Prime Minister David Cameron’s government announced the creation of the world’s largest contiguous ocean reserve on Wednesday, protecting 322,000 square miles around the remote Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific. To put that in perspective, that’s three and a half times the size of the United Kingdom and bigger than the state of California, according to National Geographic.
Pitcairn’s residents implored the UK government to protect the area, which is threatened by illegal fishing. “No fishing or seafloor mining will be allowed in the reserve, except for traditional fishing around the island of Pitcairn by the local population,” according to Enric Sala, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence who led an expedition to the area in 2012 that helped make the scientific case for the area’s protection.
The UK leads the world with the highest percentage of its territorial waters (30 percent) under protection (it, of course, helps to be a former global empire with a lot of island territories). The U.S. did, however, win the title for the largest non-contiguous network of reserves when the Obama administration preserved nearly 490,000 square miles of waters around its remote Pacific island territories last September.
The remote nature of the islands have kept the marine ecosystems largely intact until the recent rise in illegal fishing…
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