[Coral-List] ZAC GOLDSMITH PRESS RELEASE: Government urged to create the World’s biggest Marine Reserves in its Overseas Territories

Peter Raines rainespeter at gmail.com
Thu Sep 11 11:27:52 EDT 2014

On 10th September in Parliament, Zac Goldsmith MP, Stanley Johnson, the
RSPB, the Blue Marine Foundation and the Pew Trusts presented a pamphlet
calling on the Government to commit to creating Marine Protected Areas
around three of its Overseas Territories: Pitcairn, Ascension, and South
Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

Speaking at the launch of ‘Marine Protected Areas in the UK’s Overseas
Territories’, Mr Goldsmith said; ‘it is estimated that 90% of all large
fish are gone and that 15 of the world’s 17 large fisheries either have
collapsed or are on the brink of collapse.’

The UK currently controls about 2% of the world’s oceans, and the fifth
largest, and possibly the most diverse, marine zone in the world. Most of
this area is within the UK Overseas Territories which host 90% of our
nations biodiversity. In 2010, the British Government created a Marine
Protected Area – the world’s largest – in the British Indian Ocean

During the event Mr Goldsmith said ‘we know that marine protected areas
work. During World War two, when fishing was prevented in the Atlantic,
fish populations soared incredibly quickly. Spain has a terrible record on
fishing around the world, but catches close to the famous Tabarca marine
reserve, the country’s first, were 85% higher than elsewhere after just six
years of protection.’

Mr Goldsmith added ‘the UK’s Overseas Territories are calling on the UK
Government to help them establish marine protected areas, and of course we
must.” He added; “Creating a Marine Protected Area in Pitcairn alone would
represent one of the most significant conservation measures ever taken by
any government.”

Pitcairn is inhabited by descendants of the famous mutineers of the Bounty.
The Islands are remote and have some of the best coral reefs in the world.
It is currently unprotected. The proposed Pitcairn reserve would be the
world’s largest single fully protected area – 834,000km2.

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are uninhabited. They have a
vast marine area, recognised world-wide for the importance of its wildlife.
Home to more than 100m seabirds and half the world’s population of southern
elephant seals, it is one of the world’s most diverse and scientifically
significant regions on the planet.

Ascension Island lies in the middle of the rich equatorial waters of the
South Atlantic. The peak of a gigantic undersea volcano, it holds the
second largest green turtle nesting site in the Atlantic and one of the
most important tropical seabird breeding stations in the world. Its waters
are full of significant populations of big ocean predators including tuna,
dolphins, sharks, and marlin.

The precise cost to administer the MPAs is not known, but even the biggest
estimates put it at a fraction of total funding by the Department of
International Development. Until now the Government has spent about £2
million a year on conservation amongst its Overseas Territories, compared
with £460 million in the UK. This means that the areas most important to
global biodiversity are the least resourced.

Zac Goldsmith finished by stating: ‘We have it in our power today to create
the world’s largest fully protected marine reserves. Given their importance
to nature and human livelihoods, and the fact that even the more
extravagant costs associated with protecting those sites represent only the
tiniest fraction of the annual funding of the Department for International
Development, this surely represents good value for money. Here is a golden
opportunity for the British Government.’

The Rt Hon Oliver Letwin, who spoke at the event, said; ‘‘this is an
enormously useful thing to bring forward. We have extraordinary potential
here. I agree that imperfect enforcement is better than no enforcement.
Speaking on the Government’s behalf, we receive this report with sympathy
and real enthusiasm. I will do my best to create a forum for discussion
which I hope Zac will help to coordinate. It is action now and/or a
manifesto commitment.’

Stanley Johnson added; “‘So much great work has gone on here. This is a
fantastic opportunity and I am very encouraged by Oliver Letwins remarks.”
Jonathan Hall, RSPB Head of UK Overseas Territories said: ‘The creation of
a fully protected Ascension Island Ocean Sanctuary would be a major step
towards protecting the threatened Atlantic. It would be a refuge for
dwindling tuna fish stocks, endangered Green Turtles and would play its
role as a beacon of ocean conservation. Alongside the other proposed
reserves it could and should be declared tomorrow, creating a fabulous and
historic achievement for the end of this Parliament.’

Peter Raines MBE
Director of International Operations
Coral Restoration Foundation International


Email: rainespeter at gmail.com
Mobile: +44 (0)7597 664987
Skype: peter.raines

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