Tristan Da Cunha Announces New Marine Protection Zone

By Jonathan Kitto,

The Chief Islander of Tristan Da Cunha, James Glass, has announced the establishment of a Marine Protected Area that will cover 90% of the island’s waters. This is a huge step forward for global conservation efforts. The tiny British Overseas Territory, perhaps best known for being the most remote human settlement on earth, is host to a deep richness of biodiversity; being the breeding ground for 80% of the world’s population of Subantartic Fur Seals as well as 90% of the world’s population of Northern Rockhopper Penguins.

The decision, which has been made as part of the broader “Blue Belt Programme”, has been hugely significant with a new 700,000 square kilometre Marine Protected Area meaning a ban to harmful ocean-going activities such as bottom-trawling fishing and deep-sea mining. In fact, with this new MPA the UK Government’s Blue Belt Programme has seen 4.3 million square miles of ocean receive environmental protection. To put it in perspective, that’s an area 17 times the size of the UK.

Other interactions with the Blue Belt Programme have seen islanders from Tristan receive training in the UK, including training in compliance and enforcement to help police the newly installed MPA. In December 2019 the island’s fisheries patrol boat, “The Wave Dancer”, returned after receiving refurbishment in the UK. The maintenance of this vital island asset as well as important training means the announcement of an MPA is more than just empty words.

The Blue Belt Programme has been a great success story for all the British Overseas Territories involved and shows what an important role these territories can play in global stewardship and beyond. Tristan Da Cunha, with its population of just 250, has shown what a determined and committed community can achieve. The rest of the world ought to take note.