Speaking ahead of the Our Ocean conference in Washington D.C hosted by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the UK’s Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan said that four million sq.km of ocean will be protected under the new plans. 

“Protecting four million square kilometres of ocean is a fantastic achievement, converting our historic legacy into modern environmental success,” Duncan said.

Moreover, an additional one million square kilometres of ocean will be closed to commercial fishing, in an attempt to preserve important marine life.

‘World-leading vision’

The announcements include the designation of protected areas around the Pitcairn Islands, which host a marine environment covering around 840,000 sq.km. Additionally, the 444,916 sq.km marine environment around St Helena – home to more than forty endemic species and sea life such as whale sharks and turtles – is now also designated as a protection area.

A commitment was also made to designate marine protection zones around the south Atlantic islands of Ascension by 2019 and Tristan da Cunha by 2020.

RSPB’s Head of UK overseas territories Jonathan Hall welcomed the announcement. “This is simply enormous and shows world-leading vision,” Hill said. “The Government and those of our overseas territories have now shown fantastic ambition in recognising that we need to protect our rich oceans and the amazing wildlife they hold.

“Today’s announcements by the UK overseas territory and UK Governments give a long-term future to these amazing places, and to the ocean upon which we all depend.”

Sea change

Following the Government’s announcement to ban the sale of microbeads in personal beauty products by the end of 2017, today’s far-reaching agreement will help the world to reach its global target of protecting 10% of the marine environment by 2020.

The Government’s commitment also comes in the backdrop of a growing number of business initiatives that have sought to tackle threats to the ocean, including marine pollution and the growing threat of climate change.

In May, a list of cross-sector companies including Asda, Morrisons, McDonald’s, Birds Eye voluntarily signed an agreement to protect a key Arctic region from industrial fishing, by preventing suppliers from expanding cod fisheries into pristine marine waters.

Meanwhile, M&S recently became the first British retailer to support and improve the environmental sustainability of the fishing sector by signing up to the UK’s Responsible Fishing Scheme(RFS) which provides a set of guidelines for supplier vessels and skippers.

And Lidl became the first British retailer to stock MSC-certified lobster late last year, and was listed among the nation’s top retailers for MSC sustainable seafood in January. Sainsbury’s also recently made an industry-leading commitment to launch a certified sustainable tuna sandwich as part of its on-going efforts to deliver more sustainable seafood.

George Ogleby

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