At the Our Oceans conference in September Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan announce plans to double marine protected areas around the UK overseas territories.
With the designation of partial protection around St Helena and full protection of almost all of Pitcairn islands’ marine area, and the commitment to further protect ocean around Ascension by 2019 and Tristan da Cunha by 2020, around 4 million Km2 will be protected. One million Km sq will exclude commercial fishing, similar to the Chagos Marine Reserve, allowing marine life to thrive.
But there is still a long away to go to achieve target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Targets that states “by 2020 at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem service, are conserved though effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscape and seascape.”
2016 has been an outstanding year for our oceans with more protection granted than ever before and these announcements by the government are a very significant contribution towards achieving this UN target and we congratulate them on taking this lead.
To help with implementation, management, surveillance and enforcement of these new protected areas the government also pledged £20 million over the next four years to overseas territories.
The Chagos Marine Reserve was designated as a fully no-take marine protected area in 2010 and was the first of what has now become a much more widespread interest in protecting marine areas under UK sovereignty.
However because the Chagos Archipelago’s waters are so rich in marine life, it attracts poachers. Though poaching is suppressed by the activities of the patrol vessel, large commercial fishing vessels are often spotted on the edge of the reserve’s boundary and may on occasions cross that line. Smaller boats from Sri Lanka and India are also being detained for illegally fishing inside the reserve.
It is vital that surveillance and enforcement continues and indeed is intensified and this investment by the UK government to stem illegal fishing activities is a welcome step in the right direction.