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On Friday, the government of Tristan da Cunha, a four-island archipelago in the South Atlantic, announced that it is creating the fourth-largest marine “no-take” reserve in the world. The new marine reserve will encompass 265,347 square miles, making it almost three times larger than the United Kingdom. Tristan da Cunha, a British territory, will protect 90% of the waters around the island chain by banning fishing, mining, and other extractive activities. What makes it so special? “This is a place that has a unique ecosystem that is found nowhere else,” National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala remarked, ant is notable for its kelp forests and as a critical nursery for blue sharks.
Why This Matters: As National Geographic states, while 8% of the world’s ocean territory is protected at some level, commercial fishing is banned in only 2.6%. A recent study by leading scientists in the field found that marine protection leads to greater abundance for nearby fishing. Expanding current protected areas by even 5 percent, the study found, could boost global fish catch by at least 20 percent. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are “a conservation silver bullet.” This is one of the reasons why scientists recommend that we increase fully protected marine areas to 30% of the globe by 2030.
As we reported last month, the study’s findings were significant because they are contrary to the public’s belief that increasing marine protection creates a decrease in the number of fish caught by fishers. Instead, the study, which appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, further corroborated established scientific evidence that no-take marine reserves instead increase food supplies because they result in larger catches by fishers. Marine protected areas in which fish stocks are left undisturbed can produce a “spillover” effect — in other words, an abundance of fish from a protected area “spills over” into areas outside those no-fishing zones where fishers can catch them.
Fully protecting most of the area around Tristan da Cunha has been an objective of the National Geographic Society’s Campaign for Nature Initiative, which calls for 30 percent of the ocean to be protected. Protecting 30%, according to their research, would create numerous benefits for ecosystems beyond boosting fish stocks for food. The campaign also argues that safeguarding 30% of the ocean will also help protect critically endangered species from extinction. “We have 10 years to protect 30 percent of the ocean if we want to stop the extinction of species,” says Sala.
Tristan da Cunha Cooperation
Tristan da Cunha’s announcement is part of the U.K.’s Blue Belt Programme, which, as of today, safeguards 2.7 million square miles of marine ecosystems around the world mostly around small island territories under the control of the U.K. government. This new sanctuary is the result of a collaboration among the governments plus a number of conservation groups, including the U.K.’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the National Geographic’s Society’s Pristine Seas initiative, along with Conservation International and the Pew Trusts. Currently, only 245 people of Scottish, American, Dutch, and Italian heritage live there on the island’s only village, called Edinburgh of the Seven Seas.
This week, we have featured this series of videos by the Environmental Defense Fund about the impacts climate change is having on the ocean as observed by the people who live and work there — fishermen and women. Their stories have been compelling and provided a sense of the ways that climate change is harming and shifting global fish stocks.
Why This Matters: On Tuesday, pursuant to President Biden’s climate executive order, NOAA announced: “an agency-wide effort to gather initial public input” on “how to make fisheries, including aquaculture, and protected resources more resilient to climate change.
It’s not just men in the fishing sector who are impacted by climate change, overfishing, and COVID-19 — women are too. Women like Alexia Jaurez of Sonora, Mexico, who is featured in this Environmental Defense Fund video, do the important work of monitoring the catch and the price, and most importantly determining how many more […]
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Last summer, Florida created its first aquatic preserve in over 30 years. The Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve protects about 400,000 acres of seagrass just north of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf coast. These are part of the Gulf of Mexico’s largest seagrass bed and borders other existing preserves, creating a […]
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