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Marine Sanctuary to Protect an Area Triple the Size of the UK

Tori Scott celebrates as another portion of the sea is protected, safeguarding more endangered species

Photo by Silas Baisch

The British government has announced that the island of Tristan da Cunha will become one of the largest Marine Sanctuaries in the world, with a no-take zone covering a 265,000 square mile area – three times the size of the UK itself. Following this announcement, the UK is now protecting more than 4.3 million square kilometres of the ocean, meaning that 30 per cent of the world’s ocean will be protected by 2030.

Tristan da Cunha, a British overseas territory a six-day boat trip away from South Africa, is one of the most isolated islands on our planet, with a mere population of 250. However, it is well-populated with wildlife, with both on-land and in-water inhabitants, including four species of seabirds that nest nowhere else on the planet.

The island’s government has decided that they will help protect their endangered species by introducing the island as one of the biggest fully-protected marine wildlife sanctuaries in the world. This sanctuary will protect the animals from overfishing and becoming endangered through closely monitoring suspicious fishing vessels via satellites, limiting the human effect on the environment around the island.

James Glass, Tristan da Cunha’s Chief Islander, said: “our life on Tristan da Cunha has always been based around our relationship with the sea, and that continues today.” The sanctuary is extremely important for the community as they are deeply committed to conservation; the island had already protected half of their land before introducing these new measures.

Many say that the water that surrounds the island is rich with biodiversity and threatened species, so this newly announced marine sanctuary is a “critically important step in protecting the world’s biodiversity and ecosystems”.

Developing the Sanctuary

The new development plan for the marine sanctuary is an environmental win for the UK, as now 90% of their waters are closed to harmful activities like bottom-trawling fishing, sand extraction and deep-sea mining. This new zone becomes a section of the UK’s Blue Belt – part of a programme created by the UK government to support and protect overseas UK marine environments.

“Through its ambitious Blue Belt Program, the UK government has worked in partnership with the Overseas Territories to bring together marine experts and cutting-edge scientific research to protect and manage the waters surrounding the Territories.” – Boris Johnson

Tristan da Cunha is known for its waters which includes such species like elephant seals, threatened sharks and rare seabirds, but they were under threat from the devastating effects of humanity.

Climate Change and Pollution

Lord Goldsmith, the Environment Minister, has said that as a global community, we are destroying the world’s waters by hoovering the life out of the ocean at an appalling rate. Marine protection schemes are an effective way to tackle this, so it is obvious that more need to be introduced to improve the health of the planet.

“We are in danger of killing our seas. We are warming them up, making them more acidic and every day we fill them with turtle-choking, dolphin-poisoning plastic that is turning our oceans into a vast floating rubbish dump.” – Boris Johnson

In November 2021, the UN Climate Change Conference will be held in Glasgow, hopefully driving progress on tackling climate change and forging new ways to protect marine biodiversity and tackle plastic pollution in our ocean.

People who visit Tristan da Cunha describe the island as a place like no other. If the world’s most remote community are able to protect 90-percent of their waters, which they depend on for survival, perhaps they will offer inspiration for the rest of the world to tackle climate change and protect more of the world’s ocean.


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