Atlantic Ocean's Biggest Marine Sanctuary Will Be Established By A Tiny Island

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

Tristan da Cunha, a volcanic archipelago part of the UK's overseas territories, has announced that 700,000 sq km of its waters will become the largest marine protected area (MPA) in the Atlantic Ocean.

Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, Tristan da Cunha's main settlement

Tristan da Cunha, a community of only 250 people on one of the world's most remote islands, has made an immense contribution to marine wildlife conservation. On Thursday, the territory announced that, in partnership with the UK government, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and National Geographic's Pristine Society, it'll be conserving the surrounding oceans by banning bottom-trawling fishing, deep-sea mining, and other harmful activities.

By doing so, the territory is assisting the UK government achieve its goal of protecting 30% of the world's oceans by 2030. This measure will shield Tristan da Cunha's wealth of wildlife, which includes sevengill sharks, the yellow-nosed albatross, the Atlantic petrel, rockhopper penguins, and other species of birds native to the area. Additionally, it'll preserve golden forests of kelp, vibrant coral reefs, and other marine ecosystems. In a statement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on other nations to join Britain.

“We are in danger of killing our seas. We are warming them up, making them more acidic and every day we fill them with turtle-choking, dolphin-poisoning plastic that is turning our ocean into a vast floating rubbish dump. We need collective global action if we are to bequeath a world that is every bit as wonderful and magnificent as the one we inherited." - Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister

Right now, only 8% of the world's oceans are considered MPAs. Of those, merely 2.6% of those have declared fishing to be entirely off-limits. According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, “strategically expanding the existing global MPA network by just 5% can improve future catch by at least 20%.” By conserving vital marine habitats, Tristan da Cunha will grow their fish stocks, an essential step toward food security and biodiversity in the territory.

"...the sea is our vital resource, for our economy and ultimately for our long-term survival. That’s why we’re fully protecting 90% of our waters – and we’re proud that we can play a key role in preserving the health of the oceans." - James Glass, Trista da Cunha's chielf islander

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