Last month, I raised the possibility that the United Kingdom might create one of the largest marine reserves in the world around the Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific. Now The Guardian reports that these plans are getting the go-ahead:
While not mentioned in chancellor George Osborne’s speech, the budget published on Wednesday confirms that the government will go ahead with designating the ocean around Pitcairn – famous partly as the island where the mutineers of the Bounty settled – as a marine protected area (MPA). The zone is expected to ban commercial fishing, and will cover a 834,000 sq km (322,000 square miles) area where previous expeditions have found more than 80 species of fish, coral and algae.
As mentioned in my previous post, one of the reasons such huge (and remote) reserves are becoming increasingly feasible is the fact that satellite technology and remote monitoring will drastically cut the cost of enforcement. As the BBC reports, a satellite watchroom has already been established and is ready to begin operation almost immediately:
Some of the confidence to establish reserves leans on new satellite technologies that are able now to track and follow the pirates. This is being done in the new watchroom, established at the Satellite Applications Catapult in Harwell, Oxfordshire. It is a partnership between the Catapult and Pew, and is called Project Eyes on the Seas. Its smart systems not only track vessels but analyses their movements. And by incorporating additional data, such as sea conditions and probable fish locations, Project Eyes can make predictions about what the vessels are likely to be doing.
There's already talk that this Pitcairn reserve is just the beginning. The U.K. is also making noises that it will also create a reserve around Ascension Island in the Atlantic — an area off the coast of Africa that boasts incredible biodiversity but was threatened by commercial fishing as recently as 2013, according to RSPB, the U.K.'s largest nature conservation charity.
Sylvia Earle is going to be mighty pleased.