UK creates Pitcairn marine reserve : 3½ times the size of the UK

Pew Charitable Trust reports: The Pew Charitable Trusts joins the Pitcairn Island Council in praising the UK government for the designation of 320,465 square miles (approximately 830,000 square kilometres) as a marine reserve in the remote waters surrounding the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific Ocean.

The announcement, 15th September 2016, by the United Kingdom’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office follows a one-year pilot surveillance program in these waters using Project Eyes on the Seas, a technology platform developed jointly by Pew and the U.K.-based Satellite Applications Catapult to monitor distant areas of ocean.

Pitcairn is the only inhabited island in the island chain, with a population of around 50 people. The majority are descendants of the mutineers of the British Royal Navy’s HMS Bounty, who settled Pitcairn with Tahitian companions in 1790.

In March 2015, the British government announced its intention to create the reserve and to conduct the trial program. The designation now marks the first time any government has combined creation of a remote, fully protected marine area with a comprehensive plan to use the most up-to-date available technology to enforce prohibitions on fishing and other activities.

The monitoring trial, which included more than 10,000 hours of surveillance using Eyes on the Seas, found minimal fishing activity in the remote waters of the Pitcairn Islands’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and high compliance with current laws and regulations.

With official designation of the marine reserve, all extractive activities, such as industrial fishing and mining, are now prohibited within the EEZ, except for subsistence fishing in a small area set aside for the Pitcairn community.

At roughly 3½ times the size of the land area of the U.K., the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve protects some of the most intact marine ecosystems on the planet. The waters are home to 1,249 identified species, including at least two found nowhere else on Earth: a species of squirrelfish and the
many-spined butterfly fish. The reserve also safeguards one of the world’s only two remaining raised coral atolls — a ring-shaped coral reef as well as 40-Mile Reef, the deepest and most well-developed coral reef known.

With its overseas territories, the U.K. serves as caretaker for 2.6 million square miles (more than 6 million square kilometres) of ocean, the fifth-largest marine area of any country.

In recent years, the nation has become a leader in the global movement to safeguard critical ocean habitat — establishing the Chagos Marine Reserve in the British Indian Ocean Territory in 2010 and pledging protections for the waters of Ascension Island in the South Atlantic in January of this year.

The U.K., the United States, New Zealand, Palau, and Chile all have announced creation of large, fully protected marine reserves in the past 18 months, a period in which more ocean has been set aside for protection than any other in history.

Even with this progress, only about 3 percent of the ocean has been designated with strong protections. Recent science shows that at least 30 percent needs to be safeguarded in order to conserve biodiversitybiodiversity Biological diversity in an environment as indicated by numbers of different species of plants and animals., support fisheries productivity, and ensure maximum economic, cultural and life-supporting benefits.

Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts, 15th September 2016. For further details, see

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