At the third Our Ocean conference, held on Thursday, 15th September in Washington DC, the British Government declared the waters around the Pitcairn Islands as a complete, no-take marine reserve covering 834,334 km2. This is an incredible step forward for the health of the planet – protecting large expanses of ocean helps to protect entire marine ecosystems and maintain biodiversity in the seas on which all life on earth depends.
The Pitcairn Islands are a group of four remote islands – Pitcairn, Ducie, Oeno, and Henderson – in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Though the islands are themselves small, the territory has one of the largest Exclusive Economic Zones in the world, within which lies some of the most important oceanic ecosystems.
Famous as the island inhabited by descendants of the mutineers from the HMS Bounty, the waters around Pitcairn contain some of the best coral reefs in the world and intact deep-sea habitats with many species new to science. Mindful of the treasures that lie around their home, the Pitcairn islanders called for the creation of a Marine Protected Area. Accordingly, in March 2015, the British government announced their intention to ban commercial fishing and designate the territory as a marine reserve as well as to create a ‘Blue Belt’ around other British Overseas Territories.
Following that announcement, the Bertarelli Foundation, together with the Pew Charitable Trusts, supported the trailing of new technologies such as the UK Satellite Applications Catapult’s ‘Eyes on the Sea‘ and Liquid Robotics Waveglider platform. This trial helped to inform the creation of an effective monitoring and enforcement strategy, and paved the way for the final designation of the reserve.
Sir Alan Duncan, Minister of State at the UK Foreign Office announced the final designation of the reserve at the 2016 Our Ocean conference and added:
“Protecting four million square kilometres of ocean is a fantastic achievement, converting our historic legacy into modern environmental success. This demonstrates our commitment to delivering the Blue Belt pledge.”
On hearing the news, Ernesto Bertarelli commented:
“I’m delighted to continue our successful partnership with the UK government. This significant designation will help protect an important part of the ocean using the next generation of monitoring and enforcement technologies. It is my hope that other governments will look at what we’ve supported around Pitcairn when considering how they might monitor and enforce their own marine reserves.”