The Pitcairn Islands, a U.K. overseas territory, is made up of four islands: Pitcairn, Henderson, Oeno, and Ducie. (Photo Credit: Tony Probst)
World’s largest fully protected marine reserve set
Thursday, March 19, 2015, 22:20 (GMT + 9)
A new marine reserve was established by the British government in the South Pacific Ocean, which has been welcomed by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the National Geographic Society.
Both institutions had joined the local elected body, the Pitcairn Island Council, in submitting a proposal calling for the creation of a marine reserve to protect these spectacular waters in 2003.
This 834,334-square-kilometre protected area, called Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve, is home to at least 1,249 species of marine mammals, seabirds and fish.
"With this designation, the United Kingdom raises the bar for protection of our ocean and sets a new standard for others to follow," said Matt Rand, director of Global Ocean Legacy, a project of Pew and its partners that advocates for establishment of the world’s great marine parks.
“The United Kingdom is the caretaker of more than 6 million square kilometres of ocean — the fifth-largest marine area of any country. Through this designation, British citizens are playing a vital role in ensuring the health of our seas," Rand added.
For his part, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala, head of Society’s Pristine Seas project pointed out: "Today’s action by Prime Minister Cameron will protect the true bounty of the Pitcairn Islands — the array of unique marine life in the surrounding pristine seas."
"Our first-ever scientific exploration of the area revealed entirely new species as well as an abundance of top predators like sharks. It was like traveling to a new world full of hidden and unknown treasures, a world that will now be preserved for generations to come," remarked Sala.
In addition, the Pitcairn Island Council explained that the people of Pitcairn are extremely excited about the marine reserve in these unspoiled waters of the Pitcairn Islands, including Ducie, Oeno, and Henderson Islands.
"We are proud to have developed and led this effort in partnership with Pew and National Geographic to protect these spectacular waters we call home for generations to come," the Council concluded.
Pew sources reported that together with the National Geographic the NGO carried out a scientific survey of Pitcairn's marine environment in 2012, revealing a vibrant ecosystem that includes the world's deepest known living plant, a species of encrusting coralline algae found 382 metres below sea level. The reserve also protects one of the two remaining raised coral atolls on the planet as well as 40-Mile Reef, the deepest and most well-developed coral reef known in the world.
The NGO also explained that in conjunction with the designation, the Bertarelli Foundation announced a five-year commitment to support the monitoring of the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve as part of Pew’s Project Eyes on the Seas, using a technology known as the Virtual Watch Room.
According to Pew, with this satellite monitoring system, developed together with the UK-based company Satellite Applications Catapult, government officials will be able to detect illegal fishing activity in real time.
The designation of the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve was supported by numerous British scientific and conservation organizations, including the Royal Society for Protection of Birds, the Blue Marine Foundation, Greenpeace UK, the Marine Conservation Society, the Zoological Society of London, and Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee.