In the South Atlantic Ocean lies one of the most remote islands in the world, Tristan da Cunha. The incredibly isolated British territory is partially famous because the recorded population of 245 people is thought to have all descended from just fifteen outside ancestors who arrived on the island at various dates between 1816 and 1908. That little fact, however, is not the focus of this particular story.
Last week, the government of Tristan da Cunha announced that the 700,000 sq km of waters around will become a marine protected area (MPA), making it the fourth-largest such sanctuary in the world. As reported by The Guardian, the community will safeguard the area’s wealth of wildlife, including seven-gill sharks, the globally threatened Yellow-nosed albatross, and Atlantic petrel, rockhopper penguins, and other birds that live there.
The UK will be responsible for the long-term monitoring and enforcement of this vast area – three times the size of Britain and 2,400km from the nearest habitation, Saint Helena. In general, the UK has a duty to protect wildlife found in all its territories and has a target in place to protect 30 percent of the world’s oceans by 2030.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) described the creation of the new MPA as the “jewel in the crown of UK marine protection”.
The nonprofit’s chief executive, Beccy Speight, had this to say in the announcement: “Tristan da Cunha is a place like no other. The waters that surround this remote UK overseas territory are some of the richest in the world. Tens of millions of seabirds soar above the waves, penguins and seals cram on to the beaches, threatened sharks breed offshore and mysterious whales feed in the deep-water canyons. From today, we can say all of this is protected.”