United Kingdom announces creation of Marine Protection Area

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The United Kingdom government has announced that they will be creating the world’s largest Marine Protection Area in the seas around the island of Pitcairn in the South Pacific.

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced as part of the budget that, “The government intends to proceed with designation of a MPA around Pitcairn”.

Some of the best-preserved marine ecosystems on Earth are found off Pitcairn Island. This new Marine Protection Area will preserve the area from 12 miles offshore of the island out to the full 200 nautical mile limit of the territory. This will be 830,000 square kilometres (320,464 square miles) or 3.5 times the area of the UK. Leading conservation groups, scientists and the residents of Pitcairn Island are welcoming the decision.

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The waters surrounding Pitcairn Island are alive with over 1,200 marine species. These include whales and dolphins along with 365 varieties of fish, seabirds, corals and turtles including the critically endangered hawksbill turtle. They are one of the forty-eight threatened species found here. Species such as the Pitcairn angelfish are not found anywhere else on Earth.

Once it becomes a Marine Protection Area all extractive and damaging activities including overfishing, illegal pirate fishing, deep-sea mining exploration and pollution will be stopped. The area will also be afforded better protection from climate change.

Marine Reserve Coalition Co-ordinator for ZSL, Fiona Llewellyn said, “The announcement of the Pitcairn Marine Reserve marks a globally significant step towards better stewardship of our oceans. We congratulate the UK government on this decision and now look to other governments around the world to follow the UK’s lead and do more to safeguard our marine biodiversity for generations to come.”

Pitcairn Island being designated a Marine Protection Area is a major success for the Great British Oceans campaign. This is a campaign involving over 100 conservation and environmental organisations along with scientists aiming to create a number of fully protected marine reserves in the UK Overseas Territory.

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Now the coalition is looking forward to working with the government on expanding the marine reserve network to other overseas territories with the possibility that the waters of Ascension Island and the South Sandwich Islands will become Marine Protection Areas in the near future.

Before Pitcairn’s waters were designated a marine reserve only 3% of the world’s oceans had any protection at all with less than 1% classified as ‘fully protected.’ This is despite 194 countries making a commitment to have 10% of the global ocean protected by 2020.

The United Kingdom government has now protected 22% of the waters which come under their jurisdiction. This represents a 25% increase in the global protected area. Two of the largest marine reserves are now maintained by the United Kingdom with the other being the Chagos Marine Reserve which was created in 2010 around the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Photo Credits:   Turtle    – By B.navez (Own work (own photographic work)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Whale  – Public Domain

By Cale Russell

TheAnimalFacts.com is a testament to Cale’s commitment to the education of people around the world on the topic of animals and conservation, through the sharing of topical and newsworthy information.

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