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.
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.
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).
2019 - Blue Belt goals
Ascension Islanders have the opportunity to fully protect at least 50% of their 440,000 km² exclusive economic zone.
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 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.
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.