One of the most important acts of this government?

Hidden away in the pages of last week’s budget details was a very significant measure, which has received precious little public attention. The Guardian reports:

The UK is to establish the world’s largest continuous marine reserve in waters around the Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific, the government has said.

While not mentioned in chancellor George Osborne’s speech, the budget published on Wednesday confirms that the government will go ahead with designating the ocean around Pitcairn – famous partly as the island where the mutineers of the Bounty settled – as a marine protected area (MPA).

The zone is expected to ban commercial fishing, and will cover a 834,000 sq km (322,000 square miles) area where previous expeditions have found more than 80 species of fish, coral and algae.

The move has been warmly welcomed by ecological campaigners including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall:

Whatever else you might think about (last) Wednesday’s budget, it’s clear that this is an incredible win for the oceans. This government, as well as the supporters of this initiative from across the parties in Westminster, deserve enormous credit for having the will to make this really happen.

The Pitcairn announcement shows those in power can really get things done when it comes to marine conservation. And it surely paves the way for even more protection of our seas, both overseas and here at home.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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7 Comments

  • It was covered by Conservativehome several days ago – it is indeed good news lets hope it is actually enforced, it already has the air of too little too late. This is us vs. the polluters, fishing empires, and agribusiness. Right now, fishing boats are scraping the ocean floor clean, and over 80% of sea pollution is coming from fertilisers, pesticides, and plastics pouring off land. The reports are dire: in less than 50 years, our oceans could be completely fished-out. In 100 years, all coral reefs might be dead.

    But just as wilderness parks work to rehabilitate life on land, the same happens in the ocean. If our governments create big enough marine reserves and enforce protection laws, the ocean can regenerate.

    If we pledge enough now we could win a network of marine sanctuaries in the Pacific, Antarctic, and the Atlantic; challenge illegal fishing and agribusiness where they are ravaging pristine natural regions; and go after a legally binding high seas agreement at the UN so 64% of the ocean’s surface will be protected!

  • I think the number of species cited must be wrong – an ecosystem in an area like this would have many more than 80 species.

  • It was also covered in Monday’s Times, although the opinion piece did note the islanders don’t get to vote in the upcoming general election…

    Also it noted how much the government has been dragging it’s feet on this one (particularly with respect to the zones around our own coast) and has only managed to designate 50 of the 127 conservation zones recommended by experts…

  • The Pitcairn Islands should be transferred to New Zealand and what happens to the ocean around them should be up to them and the Pitcairn Islanders.

  • A Social Liberal 27th Mar '15 - 2:09am

    Wonderful news

    It is a shame that the number of marine reserves around our coasts has been reduced so drastically, down from over 130 to, I believe, less than 40. On the evidence of the tiny number of reserves we have in place it can be shown that fauna and flora flourish not only in those reserves but in the areas adjacent to them.

    Thirty odd is better than none, but it doesn’t do the job.

  • peter tyzack 27th Mar '15 - 9:26am

    Caractacus is absolutely right, (but like Stevan I am puzzled why UK Parliament is involved).
    We should be pressing ahead with enlarging our marine reserves, and with a coastline like ours there must be numerous locations where a reserve would work. Though personally I would tend to the radical and commit the whole of the Irish sea, to Marine reserve status.

  • peter tyzack 27th Mar '15 - 9:28am

    If the UN are the appropriate body, they should certainly up their game and commit to clearing up the islands of floating plastic and debris in our oceans. The situation cannot be allowed to continue as it must be causing untold damage to numerous species.

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