A new project published in the journal PNAS is transforming the world’s most remote inhabited island into one of the biggest wildlife sanctuaries on the planet. The project will protect life both above and below the waves over 687,247 square kilometers (265,347 square miles) of Tristan da Cunha, a chain of islands in the South Atlantic. The newly established Marine Protection Zone will be roughly three times the size of the United Kingdom, banning all fishing activity as the waters become a “no-take zone”. Tristan da Cunha has a long history of protecting its unique environment, and this change will make the islanders the guardians of the largest no-take zone in the Atlantic Ocean.
The sizeable partnership includes the UK Government, RSPB, National Geographic Pristine Seas, Blue Nature Alliance, Becht Family Charitable Trust together with Blue Marine Foundation, Wyss Foundation, Kaltroco, Don Quixote II Foundation, British Antarctic Survey, University of Plymouth, and the Natural History Museum in London. Each is committed to the project, which will protect the largely untouched wildlife across Tristan da Cunha, a haven for albatross, penguins, whales, sharks, and seals.
The sanctuary will be awarded the UK’s Blue Belt of marine protection, which means it will become the fourth-largest no-take zone on the planet. The accreditation indefinitely suspends all and any fishing or extractive activities across the whole area.
The move, led by the Tristan da Cunha Government, will contribute to the UK’s goal to secure 30 percent of the world’s oceans by 2030. Tristan da Cunha is an ideal archipelago for such a sanctuary as it’s located 2,400 kilometers (1,491 miles) from the nearest land.
“Our life on Tristan da Cunha has always been based around our relationship with the sea, and that continues today,” said James Glass, Tristan da Cunha Chief Islander, in an email. “The Tristan community is deeply committed to conservation: on land, we’ve already declared protected status for more than half our territory. But the sea is our vital resource, for our economy and ultimately for our long-term survival. That’s why we’re fully protecting 90% of our waters — and we’re proud that we can play a key role in preserving the health of the oceans.
“The Blue Belt Programme, RSPB and many others have been valuable partners in helping Tristan da Cunha develop its marine protection strategy. Our long-term relationships have been a strong foundation for this project: to help ensure the unique biodiversity of our archipelago, for the future population of the planet.”