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’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.
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.
PROJECT OCEAN LAUNCHED
Project Ocean, a long-term partnership between Selfridges and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), launched with a mission to protect the ocean from overfishing and plastic pollution, whilst taking marine conservation issues to brand new audiences.
MARINE RESERVES COALITION LAUNCHED
Established by Project Ocean, the Marine Reserves Coalition (MRC) launched on World Oceans Day. Comprised of six leading marine environmental organisations – Blue Marine Foundation, ClientEarth, Greenpeace-UK, Marine Conservation Society (MCS), Pew Environment Group (PEG), and ZSL.
The MRC called on the UK Government to fully protect at least 30% of seas under UK jurisdiction in a network of effectively managed marine reserves (no-take areas closed to all extractive and potentially damaging activities).
FORMATION OF GREAT BRITISH OCEANS
With support from an Oceans5 grant to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), MRC transitioned into a new coalition – Great British Oceans (GBO).
Formed by six UK-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – Blue Marine Foundation, Greenpeace-UK, MCS, The Pew Trusts, RSPB, and ZSL – GBO was formed to use its collective voice to raise awareness of the opportunity for large fully-protected and locally-supported Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) throughout the OTs.
GBO SUPPORT ASCENSION ISLAND MPA
GBO supported a visit by Dr Sylvia Earle, renowned oceanographer, to Ascension Island to meet with the community and discuss marine protection possibilities.
Upon her return a marine conservation reception with Sir Oliver Letwin MP was held at the Palace of Westminster to raise awareness amongst Parliamentarians.
GBO SECURES MANIFESTO COMMITMENTS
GBO successfully instigated a ‘blue’ call to action, with the result that four party manifestos made large-scale marine commitments to the OTs.
The Conservative Party’s winning election manifesto contained a pledge to create “a Blue Belt around the U.K.’s 14 Overseas Territories, subject to local support and environmental need.”
AWARD WINNING PERFORMANCE
GBO won four PEA (People Environment Achievement) awards. As well as winning all categories entered – Nature, NGO and Team – GBO also took home the prize for Overall Champion 2015.
BLUE BELT POLICY
The coalition was instrumental in shaping the UK Government’s Blue Belt policy objectives, principle sites and funding.
April 2016-March 2019
GBO was a recipient of a John Ellerman Foundation (JEF) grant.
OUR OCEAN SUMMIT
During the Our Ocean Summit in Washington D.C., Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan announced the UK Government’s commitment to protect 4 million km2 of marine environment across the OTs, pledging £20 million from 2016-2020 to support the implementation, management, surveillance and enforcement of these MPAs.
The proclamation included a vow to work with local communities to designate MPAs around Ascension Island by 2019 and Tristan da Cunha by 2020, as well as the designation of protected areas around the Pitcairn Islands and St. Helena
PITCAIRN MPA DESIGNATION
The UK and Pitcairn Governments designated an MPA around the Pitcairn Islands, prohibiting fishing across 830,000 km2 of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and permitting sustainable local fishing in the waters surrounding the Islands.
ST HELENA MPA DESIGNATION
The Government of St. Helena designated its entire 445,000 km2 EEZ as a sustainable use International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Category VI MPA.
BLUE BELT PROGRAMME
The UK Government’s Blue Belt Programme, delivered in partnership between the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), was established to support OTs with the protection and sustainable management of their marine environments.
Seven OTs were incorporated in the Blue Belt: Ascension Island, British Antarctic Territory (BAT), British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), Pitcairn Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI), St. Helena, and Tristan da Cunha.
2016 – 2020
FINANCING THE BLUE BELT
The Blue Belt Programme was financed by nearly £20 million of funding from the UK’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF).
The funding supported scientific research, capacity building in OT’s and monitoring and enforcement of Blue Belt sites using satellite technology.
Once again, cross-party manifestos made marine pledges to the OTs.
The Conservative Party manifesto stated that the government “…will work with our Overseas Territory governments to create a Blue Belt of marine protection in their precious waters, establishing the largest marine sanctuaries anywhere in the world.”
BLUE BELT CHARTER
GBO’s Blue Belt Charter, calling on the UK Government to deliver on its ambitious Blue Belt policy commitments, was published.
Over 280 MPs from eight political parties pledged their support and agreed to #BackTheBlueBelt.
LAUNCH OF BLUE BELT 2.0
GBO and the Rt Hon. Richard Benyon MP, with remarks from Foreign Secretary the Rt Hon. Boris Johnson MP, launched ‘Blue Belt 2.0: British Global Leadership in Ocean Conservation 2017-2022’ at the Palace of Westminster.
GBO hosted a Blue Belt Charter reception at the House of Commons, which included a keynote address from Lewis Pugh – United Nations Patron of the Oceans.
Attendees included the Rt Hon. Michael Gove MP, Richard Benyon MP, and Zac Goldsmith MP.
30 BY 30
Environment Secretary the Rt Hon. Michael Gove MP instigated the 30by30 initiative, calling for 30% of the world’s ocean to be protected by 2030.
SGSSI MPA EXPANSION
The Government of SGSSI announced that No Take Zones (NTZs), closed to all commercial fishing activity, would be expanded to cover 23% (284,000 km2) of the EEZ, following recommendations arising from the first independent 5-year MPA review.
BLUE BELT CHARTER 2.0.
Following the success of the first charter, GBO published the Blue Belt Charter 2.0. More than 50 prominent international and domestic marine and environmental NGOs, world-leading universities and eminent scientists signed-up to a statement of support.
SUSTAINABLE SEAS INQUIRY
The report from the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) Sustainable Seas inquiry was published.
A representative was invited to present on behalf of GBO at the inquiry, directly leading to their recommendation that “The Government must, as a matter of urgency, guarantee sustainable levels of funding for the Blue Belt Programme post 2020, to ensure monitoring, management and enforcement of marine protected areas.”
BLUE BELT SYMPOSIUM
Key OT representatives and stakeholders involved in delivering the UK Government’s flagship marine protection programme attended the Blue Belt Symposium at the University of Exeter’s Cornwall campus. Delegates reflected on the programme’s progress and learned from global best practice. The inaugural Marine Management in the Caribbean OTs workshop was also convened in collaboration with the UK Government and Blue Belt Delivery Team.
BLUE BELT FUNDING
The Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. Boris Johnson MP, committed an additional £7 million to extend the Blue Belt scheme until April 2021.
ASCENSION MPA DESIGNATION
Following a recommendation from the Ascension Island Council, 100% of Ascension Island’s 445,000 km2 EEZ was designated as an MPA – banning commercial fishing and mineral extraction. Recreational and sport fishing is allowed up to 12 NM (22 km) from shore.
GLOBAL OCEAN ALLIANCE
The UK Government announced a new international alliance (Global Ocean Alliance) to help drive urgent action to safeguard the world’s ocean and protect its precious wildlife.
BLUE PLANET FUND
The Conservative Party election manifesto pledged to “… establish a new £500 million Blue Planet Fund to help protect our oceans from plastic pollution, warming sea temperatures and overfishing, and extend the Blue Belt programme to preserve the maritime environment. We will continue to lead diplomatic efforts to protect 30 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2030”.
CARIBBEAN POLICY BRIEF
In collaboration with Caribbean OT Governments, GBO produced a policy brief for the UK Government that provides recommendations on developing a bespoke Blue Belt scheme for Caribbean OTs wishing to participate.
TRISTAN DA CUNHA MARINE PROTECTION ANNOUNCEMENT
The Government and people of Tristan da Cunha announced their intention to designate over 90% of the entire EEZ (687,000 km2) as a Marine Protection Zone (MPZ), the largest fully protected marine reserve in the Atlantic Ocean.
BLUE BELT FUNDING EXTENSION
The UK Government committed an additional £8m to fund the Blue Belt policy into 2022
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.