Marine scientists from the University of Plymouth have helped the world’s most remote inhabited island to become a sanctuary for wildlife.
The community of Tristan da Cunha, a small chain of islands over 6,000 miles from London in the South Atlantic, has declared that almost 700,000 km² of its waters will join the UK’s Blue Belt of marine protection.
The 687,247 km² Marine Protection Zone – almost three times the size of the UK – will safeguard one of the world’s most pristine marine environments and protect the wealth of wildlife that lives there.
It has been made possible thanks to an international partnership including the UK Government, RSPB, National Geographic Pristine Seas, Blue Nature Alliance and 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.
The new Marine Protection Zone, announced in November 2020, will result in no fishing or other extractive activities being permitted across the whole area, also known as a 'no-take zone’. It makes the Tristan islanders the guardians of the largest no-take zone in the relatively unprotected Atlantic Ocean.
It also helps the UK Government with its ambition to lead the global effort to tackle the nature crisis and secure protection of 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.
The University’s contribution to the report – led by Professor of Deep-Sea Ecology Kerry Howell and PhD candidate Amelia Bridges – has involved using predictive modelling to assess the extent and distribution of vulnerable marine ecosystems.
It focused on the deep seas of UK overseas territories in the South Atlantic, analysing photographic data from the sea floor and using it to produce a predictive map showing the distribution of cold water coral reefs in the region.
This work, subsequently ratified during a research cruise funded by the UK Government’s Blue Belt programme, was then presented to the Tristan da Cunha Government and other project partners as part of their evidence gathering for the Marine Protection Zone.