Dr. Sylvia Earle Weighs In On New Ascension Island Marine Reserve

Sylvia Earle and Jonathan Hall observing green sea turtle tracks on Ascension Island © Dan Laffoley

The UK Government announced last week that it would establish a fully protected marine reserve nearly the size of the United Kingdom within its territorial waters surrounding Ascension Island that will protect just over half of this South Atlantic island’s rich waters. Mission Blue founder and National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Sylvia Earle called the news “cause for celebration,” while adding, “Half is better than none, for sure, but I am troubled by the rationale for continuing to allow commercial fishing.”

Sylvia Earle and Jonathan Hall observing green sea turtle tracks on Ascension Island © Dan Laffoley

Last February, Dr. Sylvia Earle visited Ascension Island with IUCN’s Dan Laffoley and RSPB’s Jonathan Hall to explore this Mission Blue Hope Spot, draw attention to the need to protect it, and seek the views of Ascension’s residents, many of whom have lived on the island for decades. Earle, Laffoley and Hall went diving with scientists from the Ascension Island Marine Sustainability (AIMS) project who, with support from the Darwin Initiative, have been studying marine biodiversity around the island since April 2014. The team also met with local residents, officials and schoolchildren and communicated concerns about limited funding and opportunities for non-fishery based economies back to the UK Government in support of establishing a fully protected marine reserve.

The declaration of this new reserve comes as a result of years of work by The Great British Oceans coalition—comprised of The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the Blue Marine Foundation, Greenpeace UK, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Marine Conservation Society, the Zoological Society of London, the Marine Reserves Coalition and National Geographic Society—alongside the governments of Ascension Island and the UK. A £300,000 grant from the Bacon Foundation facilitated by the —> Read More