Robots and satellites are helping to protect the ocean around the Pitcairn Islands

For many years the Bertarelli Foundation has supported the creation of large-scale Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as a means of protecting threatened biodiversity in the world’s ocean.  In 2010 we assisted with the British Government’s plan to create the world’s largest MPA around the British Indian Ocean Territory, and since then have supported the ongoing enforcement of the reserve.

Monitoring and enforcing such huge areas of ocean in some of the remotest places on earth is very challenging, but recent technological advances have made the job easier;  for that reason, when the opportunity arose to support an effort to protect the waters around the Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific Ocean, we were very keen to get involved.

In March 2015 the British Government proposed the creation of an MPA encompassing 834,334 km2 of ocean surrounding the four remote South Pacific islands, which are a British overseas Overseas Territory.  It is home to over 1,200 species of fish, marine mammals, and seabirds – including some found nowhere else on the planet – as well as the world’s deepest and most well-developed known coral reef. Like many other oceanic islands, there are fears that the Pitcairn Islands are highly vulnerable to illegal fishing, an activity that robs $23 billion of fish from the global economy every year, and which has known links to human trafficking and terrorism.

The Bertarelli Foundation, working in partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts, has provided for a trial of satellite monitoring and the testing of other technologies, over a single fishing season in the Islands’ EEZ. The trial will help inform the future monitoring and enforcement strategy and brings the declaration of the MPA one step closer.  Foundation co-Chair Ernesto Bertarelli said:

“Since 2010, the Bertarelli Foundation has successfully partnered with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on a number of initiatives to increase the protection of our ocean. I’m delighted that we’re helping to demonstrate a practical solution to make the enforcement of fishing regulations more cost-effective, and accessible by governments all around the world. As part of our commitment to this area of work, we are very excited to be bringing the most up-to-date technologies to the Pitcairn Islands in 2016.”