The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has announced plans to create a ‘Blue Belt’ of marine protection around the United Kingdom and around its Overseas Territories.

The UK designated its first marine reserve thirty years ago off the coast of England around the tiny island of Lundy. Since then, it has established Marine Protected Areas around the British Indian Ocean Territory as well as South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. This week a law designating a Marine Protected Area around the Pitcairn Islands has also been brought into force which will prohibit fishing across more than ninety-nine percent of the 840,000 square kilometres of ocean surrounding the Islands. The Pitcairn MPA is the second- largest in the world – the USA last week announced an even bigger MPA in Hawaii.

On the opposite side of the globe, the Government of St Helena has this week designated its entire 445,000 square kilometre maritime zone as a sustainable use Marine Protected Area. Its Atlantic neighbour, Ascension Island – renowned for its record breaking tuna – last year closed half its Exclusive Fishing Zone to commercial fishing, adding at least another 220,000 square kilometres.

A separate proposal for Tristan da Cunha, which is aiming to establish a regime for protecting the waters across its entire maritime zone would provide more than three quarters of a million square kilometres of protected ocean, which would make it the largest in the South Atlantic. Put together, this would more than double the size of protected ocean around the UK’s Overseas Territories to an area greater than India – four million square kilometres.

The UK Government is also providing twenty million pounds over the next four years for the development of expertise, surveillance, and technology trials to help protect the greatly enlarged areas. Click here to read more

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