Centered around the small archipelago of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic, governments and ecological organizations have created the fourth largest marine protected area on Earth and the largest in the Atlantic Ocean.
Spanning 265,347 square miles, Tristan da Cunha is nearly three times the size of Britain’s island and will protect tens of millions of native and migratory birds, rare migratory sharks, whales, seals, underwater golden kelp forests and penguins. collectively valued as a UNESCO World Heritage site—Of illegal mining, fishing and other extractive activities.
The government of the UK’s small territorial island announced Thursday that, in partnership with the UK government, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and National Geographic’s Pristine Seas Initiative, it would conserve the surrounding oceans to help achieve the goal of “protecting 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030”.
“The community … a small chain of islands more than 6,000 miles from London in the South Atlantic has declared that almost 700,000 km2 of its waters will join the UK’s Blue Belt of marine protection, making it the longest exclusion zone. largest in the Atlantic and the fourth largest on the planet ” read a statement from the local government.
The Blue Belt program has protected four million square miles of ocean habitat since its inception in 2016, due to UK land ownership of many remote island chains such as South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and Tristan da Cunha.
Described by National Geographic as a cross between “Edinburgh and California’s Big Sur”, the island is home to around 245 people of British, Italian, Dutch and American heritage. Most of the villagers earn their living from sustainable lobster fishing, which is excluded from the protected area.
Eager to help achieve the 30% protection target for the world’s oceans, a target aimed at ensuring the flourishing of marine habitats such as underwater forests and coral reefs, as well as the potentially endangered species that inhabit them, National Geographic’s Pristine Seas Initiative has worked. It is difficult to see humanity reach the goal in the next 10 years.
Pristine seas It was launched in 2008 and has since helped fund and conduct 31 expeditions around the world to collect scientific evidence on the value of certain marine ecosystems. His work has helped create 23 marine protected areas (MPAs) around the world, conserving a total of 3.1 million square miles of water.
In 2011, his expedition to the Pitcairn Islands found the deepest known plant species and two years later he found the northernmost kelp forests. These discoveries are vitally important to the creation of conservation legislation, as because science often struggles with poor knowledge and understanding of the oceans, politicians also lack knowledge.
However, MPAs are incredibly important, perhaps even more so, than their terrestrial counterparts, as the flourishing that can take place below the surface of an MPA is often enough to increase the annual fish catch by 20%, since the profits “spill over” into the surrounding oceans.
This was reported by a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which found that “strategically expanding the existing global MPA network by just 5% can improve future catch by at least 20%.”
Nowadays, about 8% of the oceans are considered MPAs, but only 2.6% of them are completely off-limits to fishing. Fishing, whether through large-scale fleets or with hand-sewn nets, often provides the most available source of high-quality protein in developing countries on all continents, and ensures stable and growing fish populations. By conserving vital marine habitats it will be key to food. security and biodiversity in the face of a growing world population.
“It is a testament to the vision of the Tristan da Cunha community that one of the smallest communities in the world can make the greatest contribution to global marine conservation this year,” said Enric Sala, Explorer-in-Residence for the National Geographic Society. .
“We can all turn to Tristan for inspiration as the world begins a decade of work to protect 30% of the global ocean by 2030.”
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