We need your help
You can help protect 4 million square kilometres of ocean if you tell your MP to #BackTheBlueBelt now
Pew works to protect our shared environment, encourage responsive government, support scientific research, and improve civic life.
The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. The RSPB plays a leading role in a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations, Birdlife International.
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is a charity devoted to the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats.
OUR OVERSEAS TERRITORIES
THESE ARE SOME OF THE MARINE REGIONS WE HOLD THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT
THE THREAT TO OUR OCEAN
With its 14 Overseas Territories, the United Kingdom is responsible for the fifth largest area of ocean in the world, measuring 6.8 million square km, over twice the size of India, and nearly 30 times the size of the UK itself. These waters represent possibly the most diverse marine portfolio on Earth – supporting a high number of rare and threatened species
94% of the UK’s biodiversity is found in its Overseas Territories Britain’s territories host the clearest water ever recorded, the largest coral atoll in the world, more penguins than any other nation, and breeding grounds for globally endangered turtles These fragile and unique ecosystems are under significant threat from excessive as well as illegal pirate fishing Left unchallenged, unsustainable human activity in these waters will cause irreparable harm to these extraordinary marine ecosystems and the threatened species they support
94% of the UK’s biodiversity is found in its Overseas Territories
Britain’s territories host the clearest water ever recorded, the largest coral atoll in the world, more penguins than any other nation, and breeding grounds for globally endangered turtles
These fragile and unique ecosystems are under significant threat from excessive as well as illegal pirate fishing
Left unchallenged, unsustainable human activity in these waters will cause irreparable harm to these extraordinary marine ecosystems and the threatened species they support
IN 2010, THE UK TOOK THE FIRST STEP BY ESTABLISHING THE CHAGOS MARINE RESERVE. THIS WAS FOLLOWED IN 2015 AND 2016 BY ANNOUNCEMENTS OF THE UK GOVERNMENT’S INTENTION TO ESTABLISH VERY LARGE RESERVES AROUND PITCAIRN ISLANDS IN THE PACIFIC OCEAN, AND ASCENSION ISLAND IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC OCEAN. WE HAVE THE MEANS AND THE OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE ACTION NOW TO PROTECT ADDITIONAL OCEAN ECOSYSTEMS IN THE OVERSEAS TERRITORIES. A COALITION OF LEADING CONSERVATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANISATIONS IS CALLING ON THE UK GOVERNMENT TO TAKE ACTION TO PROTECT SPECIAL AREAS OF SIGNIFICANT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPORTANCE – BY ESTABLISHING SOME OF THE LARGEST, FULLY PROTECTED MARINE RESERVES ON EARTH.
AS WELL AS TAKING STEPS TO PROTECT MARINE AREAS AROUND THE UK MAINLAND, WE ALSO NEED URGENT ACTION TO SAFEGUARD THE WATERS SURROUNDING OUR OVERSEAS TERRITORIES. WE CAN ACT NOW TO SECURE OUR NATIONAL MARINE HERITAGE BEFORE THE INCREDIBLE BIODIVERSITY IN OUR WATERS IS LOST, LEAVING A LASTING GLOBAL LEGACY FOR OUR OCEANS AND FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS.
WE ARE CURRENTLY INVESTIGATING THE FEASIBILITY OF ENHANCING MARINE PROTECTIONS IN THE WATERS AROUND SOUTH GEORGIA AND THE SOUTH SANDWICH ISLANDS, WHERE SEASONAL FISHING ACTIVITY IS ALLOWED, AS WELL AS PROTECTING THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT OF TRISTAN DA CUNHA, WHILE SUPPORTING THE ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECONOMIC NEEDS OF THE LOCAL COMMUNITY.
HOW WE CAN ACT
With such an expansive area of ocean under its jurisdiction,
the UK has a great opportunity to safeguard marine life around its remote oceanic islands and Territories.
We urge the UK government to act…
Demonstrate our commitment to global environmental protection by officially protecting these waters as marine reserves
Capitalise on cutting edge UK satellite technology to provide monitoring and surveillance systems, supporting the UK Government in facilitating improved, protection of remote British waters, and ensuring that these reserves are effective into the future
Work with Government and non-governmental partners to secure the financial viability of these marine reserves in the long term
GREAT BRITISH OCEANS CAMPAIGN
SUPPORT THIS MOVEMENT OF LEADING CONSERVATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANISATIONS AND OVER 100 CONSERVATION EXPERTS IN CALLING ON THE UK GOVERNMENT TO PROTECT THESE PRECIOUS MARINE ENVIRONMENTS – FOR OUR PLANET AND FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
WE ALL BENEFIT FROM THE OCEAN: FROM THE FISH THEY PRODUCE, THE AIR WE BREATHE AND THE CLIMATE WE LIVE IN. IN RETURN, WE HAVE A DUTY TO PROTECT THEM FROM IRREPARABLE HARM.
JOIN US IN TAKING THIS CRUCIAL NEXT STEP TO PROTECT THESE PRECIOUS AREAS – AND HELP US TO SHAPE A BETTER ENVIRONMENT FOR OUR COMMUNITIES, OUR OCEANS AND OUR PLANET.
14th March 2018: Great British Oceans commends the British public and Members of Parliament for backing the Blue Belt Charter
Distinguished guests, including Ministers, Members of Parliament, civil servants, marine scientists, and Non-Governmental Organisations, met in the House of Commons today to celebrate the incredible support pledged to the Blue Belt Charter by over 280 MPs from eight different parties.
The Charter, drafted by Great British Oceans (a coalition of the Blue Marine Foundation, Greenpeace, Marine Conservation Society, The Pew Trusts, RSPB and Zoological Society of London) asks for increased marine protection in the UK’s Overseas Territories.
Building on unprecedented public support for ocean preservation roused by the BBC’s Blue Planet II, backing for the Charter demonstrates overwhelming cross-party support for the UK Government and its Overseas Territories to re-affirm its leadership in marine conservation by delivering four key Blue Belt pledges:
- Establish a 500,000 km² fully protected Marine Protected Area around the South Sandwich Islands in 2018
- Deliver on the commitment to establish a fully protected Marine Protected Area in at least 50% of Ascension Island’s waters in 2019
- 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
The Charter also calls 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.
Through the actions of successive governments, the UK and its Overseas Territories have together demonstrated global leadership in ocean conservation.
The Blue Belt Charter demonstrates public support and expectation for action, which is also reflected across the political parties. This should give confidence to the Conservative Government to deliver these ambitious Blue Belt pledges.
Charles Clover of the Blue Marine Foundation stated: “The Blue Belt is one of the greatest environmental commitments ever made. But as the 280 MPs who support the Blue Belt Charter are aware, there needs to be a further, co-ordinated approach from government if we are to make sure the Blue Belt delivers for both nature and for the people of the Overseas Territories, thereby becoming something of which Britain can be truly proud .”
Willie Mackenzie for Greenpeace said: “The UK has a unique opportunity to play a global role in ocean conservation by protecting the waters around its Overseas Territories. That’s especially relevant right now in the Southern Ocean where a network of sanctuaries to protect unique wildlife is so urgently needed.”
Simon Reddy of The Pew Trusts commented: “By delivering the four Blue Belt Charter pledges the UK Government has the ability to work alongside/in partnership with the Overseas Territories and set the ‘Gold Standard’ in marine environmental protection and show global leadership – starting with full protection of the South Sandwich Islands. This is an opportunity not to be missed!”
28th SEPT 2017: Great British Oceans supports the designation of a fully-protected South Sandwich Islands marine sanctuary
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) sit approximately 4,000 kilometres north of Antarctica and 2,700 kilometres east of South America in the South Atlantic Ocean.
The United Kingdom Overseas Territory encompasses two geographically and geologically distinct groups of remote and inhospitable islands. The South Sandwich Islands are an arc of 11 small volcanic islands spread over 385 kilometres to the east of South Georgia.
There has been little attempt to explore and exploit the South Sandwich Islands for natural resources in comparison with the neighbouring waters of South Georgia, which saw both the boom and bust of the whaling and fur seal industries in the early 20th century and which currently support commercial fisheries for toothfish, icefish and krill. As such, the South Sandwich Islands are near pristine and are a global biological hotspot for threatened penguins and other seabirds. The islands host nearly half of the world’s chinstrap penguin population (1.3 million breeding pairs), more than a hundred thousand breeding pairs of Adélie penguins, and several thousand breeding pairs of gentoo penguins. In addition, the archipelago is the only arc of active volcanoes in the Southern Ocean and its waters contain unique deep-sea hydrothermal vent ecosystems and seamounts.
In 2012, the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) established a sustainable use marine protected area (MPA) around South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, to manage the local fishery and globally significant wildlife. There were welcome advances in marine conservation around the islands in 2013, but some strong protections – including several options identified by the Government itself – were not carried forward. This means that today, although the MPA encompasses 1.07 million square kilometres of the SGSSI exclusive economic zone (EEZ), just 2 percent of these waters are legally protected from extraction of resources such as fish.
The Government of SGSSI is undertaking a five year review of the MPA which will culminate in 2018. This process represents a major opportunity for the Government to enhance the protection of one of our greatest biological assets, which is under increasing pressure from climate change, invasive species and commercial interest from extractive industries.
To this end, and in line with the objectives of the SGSSI MPA set out by the GSGSSI, the Great British Oceans coalition is calling for:
- Reclassification of the waters around the South Sandwich Islands as a fully-protected marine sanctuary. This marine area is near-pristine, with only limited commercial fishing effort (which generates less than five percent of total revenues for GSGSSI). It has previously been argued that these vessels provide a deterrent to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in the area – but this is, of course, limited to the times and areas in which the vessels operate, and advances in satellite monitoring capabilities provide a cost effective opportunity to enforce a protected area without the need for commercial exploitation.
- A ban on hydrocarbon and mineral extraction, enshrined in law across the whole SGSSI maritime zone, recognising both the risks of operating in this environment and the importance and sensitivity of the region.
- Extension of the existing 12nm fully protected areas around South Georgia to better cover penguin foraging areas (as demonstrated by penguin foraging data collated by BirdLife International), and to be further evidenced by data to be submitted to the MPA Review by RSPB, BirdLife International and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), and funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts
- Closure of Shag Rocks to pelagic fishing as suggested by GSGSSI in the 2013 MPA proposals, but not taken forward.
- More precautionary management of the krill fishery around South Georgia, including: extension of the temporal krill fishery closure to October-April (to cover pre-laying breeding and fledging periods of penguins); increased reporting requirements (bringing it into line with other CCAMLR fisheries); updated survey to determine krill stock status (not done for 17 years); studies to examine fine-scale population dynamics in krill – i.e. to understand the impacts of localised depletion and move towards small-scale management unit approach.
Great British Oceans looks forward to working with the GSGSSI over the coming year in order to realise the importance of SGSSI and the potential for enhanced protection. Given the growing pressures on marine resources further south in the CCAMLR area, which ultimately affect SGSSI, the creation of a fully protected area around the South Sandwich Islands would, we believe, show leadership and catalyse international thinking on the sustainable management of marine resources.
SEPT 2016: OUR OCEAN CONFERENCE WASHINGTON DC
UK AND OVERSEAS TERRITORIES GOVERNMENTS ANNOUNCED PLANS TO PROTECT AN ADDITIONAL TWO MILLION SQUARE KILOMETRES OF OCEAN FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
THE GREAT BRITISH OCEANS COALITION (FORMERLY MARINE RESERVES COALITION), WHO LEAD THE ‘GREAT BRITISH OCEANS’ CAMPAIGN, APPLAUDS THIS VISIONARY AND FAR REACHING AGREEMENT THAT RECOGNISES THE GLOBAL IMPORTANCE OF OUR MARINE WILDLIFE. THE UK GOVERNMENT WILL COMMIT £20 MILLION OVER FOUR YEARS TO MONITOR, MANAGE AND ENFORCE THESE PROTECTED AREAS FROM UNSUSTAINABLE AND PIRATE FISHING.
THE PITCAIRN ISLANDS HAVE NOW BEEN DESIGNATED AS A FULLY-PROTECTED MARINE RESERVE. AT LEAST HALF OF ASCENSION ISLANDS’ TERRITORIAL WATERS WILL BE DESIGNATED AS A FULLY-PROTECTED RESERVE BY 2019. INCREASED PROTECTION WILL BE INTRODUCED WITH UK GOVERNMENT SUPPORT AROUND ST HELENA IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC (BANNING DAMAGING FISHING METHODS) AND AROUND TRISTAN DA CUNHA TO BETTER PROTECT THE EXTREMELY RICH WATERS THERE.
UK FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE STATEMENT