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.
"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."
The UK Overseas Territory of Ascension Island lies 1,000 miles from the coast of west Africa in the tropical Atlantic ocean. It’s one of 50 marine areas in the world which have been highlighted by Mission Blue as 'Hope Spots' - areas critical to the future health of the world’s oceans.
Ascension is home to the second largest green turtle nesting site in the Atlantic. Unique fish species, such as the resplendent angelfish and marmalade razorfish, swim in the waters close to the shore; further out, important populations of threatened tuna stocks – shared with developing West African nations – are found. Bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales swim inshore, and huge, record-breaking marlins patrol the deeper waters. Above water, myriads of seabirds depend on ocean predators to drive bait fish to the surface in order to feed. They nest on Ascension in such numbers that it is one of the most important tropical seabird sites in the world. From the vivid myriad of tropical fish, the sheer scale of goliath groupers, to the endurance and grace of hawksbill and leatherback turtles, Ascension’s wildlife represents a unique mix of eastern and western Atlantic biodiversity. And its deep offshore area, incorporating vast underwater volcanoes and part of the Mid-Atlantic rift valley, likely holds significant and as yet unknown deep sea life – buried treasure just waiting to be discovered.
Threatened by a short-term and poorly-managed industrial Taiwanese fishery from 2010-2013, the management of the rich waters of Ascension Island is currently being assessed. The 800 residents on the island cannot afford to protect a vast marine area larger than Germany themselves however- support from the UK Government is required.
Given Ascension's globally significant marine biodiversity, the RSPB is calling for the creation of an Ocean Sanctuary around the island to protect its rich waters. This is one of the only opportunities for a large-scale and fully-protected marine protected area anywhere in the tropical Atlantic. Unlike the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the neglected Atlantic currently has no large and fully-protected marine reserves
Support establishment and management of an Ascension Island Ocean Sanctuary- the largest fully-protected marine reserve in the neglected Atlanti
Progress so far
RSPB campaigning lead to the Ascension Island Government closing the uncontrolled commercial fishery at the end of 2013.
The Ascension Island Government has now initiated a review of all management options for the island's maritime zone.
The Conservative Party 2015 election manifesto committed to creating a marine protected area at Ascension, subject to the views of the local community
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.