Today I am starting as Coordinator of the Great British Oceans campaign with the Marine Reserves Coalition. This part-time role combines my passion for the ocean, achieving conservation impact, promoting policy action and working with inspirational people! It is also a great opportunity to link my research on reserve design with practical applications (I’ll be finishing up my PhD alongside).
Great British Oceans represents a coalition of six environmental NGOs – Blue Marine Foundation, Greenpeace, Marine Conservation Society, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Pew Trusts and Zoological Society of London.
Since 2011 they have worked with local stakeholders, MPs and the general public, keeping the UK Government accountable to its commitment to secure the protection of ‘blue belts’ in UK waters. These include the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve, 830,000 km2 of no-take zones encircling the islands of Oeno, Henderson, Pitcairn and Ducie.
What’s it all about?
The UK is responsible for the 5th largest marine estate in the world, yet only 0.15% is considered a Strict Nature Reserve (IUCN Category Ia), where human disturbances like commercial fishing, resource extraction and recreational activities are prohibited.
It’s easy to forget, but many of the UK’s waters are far from London. This campaign focuses on seven of these remarkable places: Pitcairn in the South Pacific, the British Indian Ocean Territory, the British Antarctic Territory and diverse islands in the South Atlantic – Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, St Helena, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
Why expand marine reserves?
So many reasons, here are just a few:
- The UK Overseas Territories are home to 94% of the UK’s endemic species – yes, 94%.
- These territories are extraordinary – for example, St Helena is suspected to be a breeding site for whale sharks (I might need to arrange a visit to double check…!)
- Marine parks are the cornerstone of efforts to protect marine habitats and species – helping to regulate threats such as overfishing, providing nursery grounds for vulnerable species and focusing resources for conservation and rehabilitation.
- These areas are logistically challenging places to work and require support from the British Government to create and maintain marine parks, and to undertake surveillance of illegal fishing and other threatening activities.
Already, over 280 MPs have signed up to a charter to create a 500,000 km2 marine protected area around South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands this year.
If you have no idea what these sub-Antarctic islands are like, think of former whaling hubs, steaming volcanoes and penguins… many, many penguins! Or just watch this fantastic video by Lewis Pugh, UN Patron of the Oceans about why these special places deserve our protection.
So there is loads to do and I can’t wait to get started!
This post is written in a personal capacity, any mistakes and opinions are my own.