The ocean is crucial to all life on earth but it is facing unprecedented threats, from overfishing to climate change
The UK and our Overseas Territories together have the fifth largest marine estate in the world
This means that the UK has an exceptional opportunity to protect millions of kilometres of ocean

The UK has committed to protect 30% of the ocean. Protection must put the conservation of nature at its heart. The UK should demonstrate its international leadership via establishing ambitious protection around uninhabited islands and supporting other Overseas Territory Governments.


The UK Government has committed to establishing a “Blue Belt” of over 4 million square kilometres of marine protected areas around the British Indian Ocean Territory, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha.
We are a coalition of six conservation charities, working together as the Great British Oceans coalition. We work with the UK Government and support Territory communities to protect these remarkable marine environments.

Ascension Island
Ascension’s waters harbour the second-largest green turtle breeding population in the Atlantic, a unique frigatebird species and some of the largest recorded Atlantic blue marlin.
Saint Helena Whale sharks, the largest fish in the ocean, are recorded in high numbers around Saint Helena. There is also much to learn about the seamounts (underwater mountains) and inshore rocky reefs around Saint Helena.
Tristan da Cunha Tristan da Cunha is the world’s most remote inhabited island and in its vast and near pristine marine zone the warm waters of the South Atlantic meet colder waters from the south.
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) SGSSI harbours a quarter of the world’s penguins and breeding colonies of several species of albatross, along with Antarctic fur seals and southern elephant seals. Whale species include southern right, sei, fin, humpback, minke, blue and sperm whales.
Pitcairn Islands Pitcairn has one of the largest exclusive economic zones in the world. Within these waters lies one of the planet’s best-preserved ecosystems—a complex community of hard and soft corals that are home to hundreds of species of fish.
British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) BIOT contains the largest living coral atoll anywhere on earth – the Great Chagos Bank, one of the few increasing breeding seabird colonies in the region and eight times more reef fish biomass than anywhere else in the Indian Ocean.
British Antarctic Territory The Antarctic Ocean is a thriving ocean where whales, seals and penguins live and raise their young. Despite being uninhabited, this icy wilderness is threatened by climate change and fishing pressures.

Over 94% of the UK’s unique biodiversity lives in the UK Overseas Territories.

These 14 Territories support a large number of rare and threatened species and habitats found nowhere else on Earth, including  breeding grounds for endangered turtles, a third of the world’s albatrosses, a quarter of the world’s penguins and the world’s largest coral atoll.

The 14 Territories are also home to 250,000 British nationals, who are best placed to decide how to manage their own marine environments.


We are calling for the UK Government to:

  • Establish a 500,000 km² fully protected Marine Protected Area around the South Sandwich Islands;
  • Deliver on the commitment to establish a fully protected marine protected area in at least 50% of Ascension Island’s waters;
  • Support the establishment of a locally-led marine protection regime throughout the waters of Tristan da Cunha by 2020;
  • Strengthen the development of the locally-led marine protection regime throughout the waters of St Helena;
  • We also call on the UK to remain a leading force within those international bodies concerned with greater protection of the Polar Regions, the UN process for establishing marine protected areas on the High Seas, and within the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.

These campaign asks are supported by UK MPs from seven political parties and over 50 prominent scientists, businesses, universities and NGOs.


Beyond 2020


2016 - Blue Belt Programme announced

The UK Government announced a commitment to provide long term protection of over four million square kilometres of marine environment across the UK Overseas Territories.
Unanimous support from the Pitcairn Island community led to the designation of the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve, fully protecting 834,000km².


2017 - Blue Belt Charter released

Over 280 UK MPs pledged their support to the Blue Belt Charter and agreed to #BackTheBlueBelt.
Richard Benyon MP authored Blue Belt 2.0: British Global Leadership in Ocean Conservation 2017-2022.


Saunders Island, South Sandwich Islands. Credit: Jim Wilson

2018 - Blue Belt goals

We are urging the UK to fully protect waters around the South Sandwich Islands (from only 2% of the 530,000 km² exclusive economic zone).


Ascension Island - Credit: Paul Colley

2019 - Blue Belt goals

Ascension Islanders have the opportunity to fully protect at least 50% of their 440,000 km² exclusive economic zone.


The Tristan da Cunha volcano at dawn, Credit: Jonathan Hall

2020 - Final year of the Blue Belt Programme

Tristan da Cunha community has the opportunity to establish their own regime for protecting the waters of their entire 754,000 km² exclusive economic zone.
St Helena will revise their marine management plan and can permanently declare their waters restricted to ‘one by one only’ commercial tuna fishing.

Beyond 2020

Ile Diamante Lagoon

Beyond the Blue Belt Programme

A commitment to continued financial support for surveillance and enforcement of the Blue Belt MPAs is essential. Funding currently expires in March 2021 and should be extended until the end of this parliament in 2024.


13th November 2020

Great British Oceans statement on Tristan da Cunha marine protection zone

The Great British Oceans coalition warmly welcomes the announcement that Tristan da Cunha will designate 687,000 square kilometres (265,000 square…
Philip Hammond Spring Statement 2019Uncategorised
13th March 2019

UK Government supports Ascension Island Council’s ocean protection request

In his Spring Statement today, the Chancellor pledged "to help protect critical habitats, the government will support the call from…
Global map with threats to UKOTs colour codedUncategorised
27th February 2019

Research review of the UK Overseas Territories

A systematic survey of the scientific literature on marine environments in the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) was published this month…


Great British Oceans is made up of six organisations:

  • Blue Marine Foundation
  • Greenpeace UK
  • The Marine Conservation Society (MCS)
  • The Pew Trusts
  • The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
  • The Zoological Society of London (ZSL)

Together as a coalition our six organisations represent over two million members. We work with partners in the UK Overseas Territories to enhance marine conservation in these exceptional places. Our combined voice helps raise public awareness of the need for ambitious international marine protection if we are to save the global ocean from ecosystem collapse.


For any enquiries, please contact us on [email protected]