A new marine reserve nearly as large as the United Kingdom is to be created in the waters surrounding Ascension Island.
The new reserve, which will be 234,291 km2, is the result of negotiations between the Blue Marine Foundation, the Ascension Island Government and the UK Government.
Fishing will be banned in more than 50% of the reserve and a £300,000 grant from the Louis Bacon Foundation will be used to police the waters. Commercial fishing will be allowed to the north of the island but it will be carefully monitored to ensure best practice is observed.
The Blue Marine Foundation has been campaigning to protect the area — which is home to some of the largest marlin in the world, a large population of green turtles, colonies of tropical seabirds and several endemic species of fish — since September 2014.
Clare Brook, Blue Marine Foundation’s CEO said, “Everyone at the Blue Marine Foundation is hugely excited to have secured such a large and significant marine reserve in the middle of the tropical Atlantic. It is a fitting reward for months of hard work by the team, by our founders, by our ambassadors and by our donors.
“Our work is of course only beginning. In the coming year we will ensure not only that the newly declared closed area is effectively monitored, and that the fishing zone is managed to best practice, but that the UK government recognises Ascension’s significance as a territory. We want to help Ascension benefit from its extraordinary marine life by encouraging more scientific expeditions and eco-tourism.”
The area could be ready for formal designation as soon as 2017 once further data has been collected and analysed.
Charles Clover, executive chairman of the Blue Marine Foundation, added: “Ascension has been at the frontier of science since Charles Darwin went there in the 19th century, so it is entirely appropriate that it is now at the centre of a great scientific effort to design the Atlantic’s largest marine reserve.”
A number of new marine reserves were created last year as governments try to combat some of the biggest threats to the world’s oceans. In 2015 New Zealand created a marine reserve the size of France and the Pacific nation of Palau approved one of the world's biggest marine sanctuaries.
The Blue Marine Foundation has partnered with Boat International to launch the inaugural Ocean Awards. The winners from the 12 categories will be announced in the February edition of Boat International.