Why a UK-sized marine reserve off the Ascension Island matters for ocean biodiversity
Today, as some will have read in the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, or the BBC News, The Bacon Foundation, founded by conservationist Louis Bacon, announced a £300,000 grant to the Blue Marine Foundation to support establishment of the largest Marine Reserve in the Atlantic Ocean. This historic new reserve is expected to protect an area only slightly less than the size of the United Kingdom in the waters surrounding Ascension Island in the Atlantic.
Grant funds from The Bacon Foundation, to be administered by the Blue Marine Foundation, will support work by the Ascension Island government to close more than half of Ascension’s waters to fishing, manage a tuna fishery, and determine the boundaries of a permanent marine reserve to be established as soon as 2017.
The protection of these waters is essential for the incredible number of species that exist here, including some of the largest marlin in the world, one of the most significant populations of green turtles, colonies of tropical seabirds and the island’s own unique frigate bird. The Bacon Foundation grant will cover the costs of surveillance, enforcement and management, which are all crucial aspects of a successful marine reserve.
Personally I am thrilled by this announcement and what it means for the future of such a globally significant area. Ascension Island has incredible marine biodiversity and several inshore marine species found nowhere else on earth. I applaud Louis in his commitment to this important initiative which will help protect the waters from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing while advancing scientific understanding of a truly exceptional place.
Chuck Fox is the Program Director of Oceans 5, an international funders collaborative dedicated to protecting the world’s five oceans. Oceans 5 makes grants and provides strategic guidance, focusing on projects and campaigns to constrain overfishing and to establish marine reserves.