Ascension Island (Ocean Sanctuary)
UK takes step forward in global marine protection (14 March 2019)
More than half of the UK’s global waters are set to be within Marine Protected Areas, putting the UK at the forefront of calls to protect 30 per cent of the world’s ocean by 2030.
The UK Government has backed plans by Ascension Island to designate over 150,000 square miles of its waters as a fully protected ‘no-take’ Marine Protected Area (MPA) – closing the off-shore area to any fishing activity and safeguarding important marine habitats for future generations.
When protected, the new no-take zone around Ascension Island would bring the total percentage of MPAs in the UK’s territorial waters, Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to over 50%. This comes as Environment Secretary Michael Gove has reiterated his call for 30% of the world’s ocean to be protected by 2030 and called on other nations to follow the UK’s lead.
The UK Government announced in 2016 that the Ascension Island Council had decided to close half of its waters to commercial fishing and today’s announcement goes one step further in protecting fish stocks and vital species. The UK Government will now work closely with the Ascension Island Council to take forward the designation.
It represents significant progress towards the government’s Blue Belt programme, an initiative to provide long term protection of more than four million square kilometres of marine environment across the UK Overseas Territories.
Posted by: Jake Turnbull, MMO, Posted on: 16 August 2018 - Categories: Blue Belt
Here is the latest update on the work that the Blue Belt Programme are undertaking with our partners on Ascension Island.
New scientific evidence to support our work
We have been working with the Ascension Island Government to study the seamount habitats around Ascension Island. By using acoustic data and underwater video, we were able to identify the presence of pelagic fish and invertebrates (living in the water column) around two seamounts in the Ascension Islands EEZ.
Using this technology, we identified the presence of key fish species including tuna and shark. We have also been able to identify a number of planktonic invertebrates, using underwater video footage. Studies such as these increase our understanding of how these diverse seamount ecosystems are used by key fish and planktonic species, and this new knowledge can improve our ability to successfully manage and protect them.
A new legal designation
The Blue Belt Programme has been working with the Ascension Island Government (AIG) and other partners to develop a strategy and timetable for the designation of the Ascension Marine Protected Area in 2019. Blue Belt staff have also provided advice on amendments to the existing Protected Areas Ordinance that will enable the legal designation of MPAs in Ascension waters.
We have been working with the Ascension Island Government to review current enforcement procedures and make recommendations on process and policy. The Blue Belt Programme have also been providing training on compliance and enforcement best practice. This involves how intelligence around potential illegal fishing is handled, as well as pocket notebook procedures, statement writing, evidence and disclosure processes when pursuing prosecutions.
We have also trialled drone surveillance techniques, as a tool to identify any Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. In 2018, the Blue Belt Programme supported an Ascension Island-led fisheries patrol and research trip on board the FV Extractor. During the patrol of the EEZ, a licensed fishing vessel was inspected to ensure that all licence conditions were being adhered to.
Over the next year, we will be:
Ascension Island marine protected zone slated to be designated by 2019. Commercial fishing will be banned in half of the 445,390 sq km Ascension protected area. Fishing will be allowed in the other areas, but activities such as oil drilling will be prohibited.
Ascension Island to become marine reserve (3 Jan 2016) bbc.com
"The government is to create a marine reserve almost as big as the UK in the Atlantic waters of Ascension Island. Just over half of the protected area will be closed to fishing. The fishery in the other half will be policed under a grant of £300,000 from the Louis Bacon Foundation, a charitable body. It is the latest marine reserve to be declared around remote islands, which will increase marine conservation zones to about 2% of the ocean.
The reserve totals 234,291 sq km, slightly less than the size of the United Kingdom. It could be ready for formal designation as soon as 2017, once further data has been collected and analysed."
Mission Blue Hope Spots website:
Ascension Island is an isolated volcanic island in the equatorial waters of the South Atlantic Ocean, around 1,600 kilometres (1,000 mi) from the coast of Africa and 2,250 kilometres (1,400 mi) from the coast of South America. The island hosts some pristine biodiversity, including a unique grouping of western and eastern Atlantic flora and fauna. The fish surrounding Ascension Island have never been exposed to commercial fisheries. A recent research expedition lead by the Shallow Marine Survey Group explored the area discovering more about the local marine life than was previously recorded. The island is home to marine mammals and inland tide pools that boast two species of shrimp that are found nowhere else in the world. Mission Blue declared Ascension Island a Hope Spot in 2013, aiming to protect and conserve these unique habitats.
Marine Reserves Coalition - Great British Oceans
Mission Blue: Protection May be Imminent for Great British Oceans