The UK Government has announced support for the Ascension Island Council's marine protected area ambitions
In his Spring Statement today, the Chancellor pledged “to help protect critical habitats, the government will support the call from the Ascension Island Council to designate 443,000 square kilometres of its waters as a Marine Protected Area, with no fishing allowed.”
The Ascension Island Council have explicitly sought a guarantee that the long-term costs of protecting their waters would be covered by the UK Government, and we are delighted that the Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP today agreed to do this.
The Ascension Island Council now have the financial certainty they were seeking to protect their rich offshore waters from all fishing, with the potential to thereby establish the largest highly-protected marine protected area (MPA) in the Atlantic. This could provide protection for a global hotspot of turtle, seabird, shark and marlin populations, and cover an area twice the size of the UK.
Today’s statement expands on the UK Government’s 2016 commitment to safeguard at least 50% of Ascension’s waters within an MPA by 2019.
It is vital that the UK provides this financial support not just for Ascension but for the whole Blue Belt Programme beyond 2020, as all these world-leading MPAs need continuing protection and enforcement.
Providing the resources necessary to ensure effective surveillance and enforcement activities across the seven Blue Belt Territories amounts to £2 million annually. As a minimum investment in the protection of biodiversity in the UK Overseas Territories, we expect to see the UK Government provide this beyond the end of the Blue Belt Programme in 2020, until at least 2022, ideally in perpetuity.
Read the Spring Statement summary.
Read the Written Ministerial Statement.
Watch the video Ascension: Ocean of Life which shares the aspirations of Ascension Island Councillors.