Tristan da Cunha, a South Atlantic island, has just created one of the largest marine sanctuaries in the world
Tristan da Cunha island is home to the largest northern rockhopper penguin colony in the world.
A community of 250 people living on Tristan da Cunha, a remote island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has just made a major step forward in terms of marine flora and fauna conservation. It has banned bottom-trawling fishing, deep-sea mining and other harmful activities from its surrounding waters.
The government of this small volcanic archipelago, one of the remotest in the world, which is part of the United Kingdom’s overseas territories, announced on November 12, 2020 that it was going to protect almost 700,000 square kilometers, in other words almost all of its territorial waters.
This area three times larger than the island of Great Britain will become the fourth largest marine protected area (MPA) in the world, and the largest in the Atlantic. Nonetheless, a small maritime area will be excluded for lobster fishing, the main resource for Tristan da Cunha’s inhabitants.
The marine area will protect the region’s rich fauna, particularly the sevengill shark, yellow-nosed albatross, Atlantic petrel, and rockhopper penguin, which are all endangered species, the seals, penguins and other endemic birds that live there, along with the underwater forests of golden kelp.
Aim: protect 30% of the world’s oceans
The initiative is championed by the British government, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the National Geographic’s Pristine Seas Initiative. It marks a further step toward the aim of protecting 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.
On a global scale, MPAs play a fundamental role in protecting fauna and underwater flora: the blossoming that takes place under the surface is accompanied by a flourishing of underwater species. This proliferation spreads into the surrounding seas and helps restore halieutic resources. According to a study published in the American scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “expanding the existing global MPA network by just 5% can improve future catch by at least 20%.”
Currently, around 8% of the oceans are categorized as MPAs, but only 2.6% of them are entirely no-fishing zones, as fish represents the most easily available source of protein for developing countries on all continents.
Maintaining the stability and growth of fish stocks while preserving marine habitats protects biodiversity and guarantees food security, two indispensable elements to cope with the rise in the world’s population.
“New Tristan da Cunha Marine Protections Cover Area Nearly 3 Times Larger Than UK Mainland,” PEW, November 12, 2020 - www.pewtrusts.org/en/about/news-room/press-releases-and-statements/2020/11/12/new-tristan-da-cunha-marine-protections-cover-area-nearly-3-times-larger-than-uk-mainland