The small island territory of Tristan da Cunha has declared that 90% of its territorial waters will be labeled as a marine protected area, or MPA.

Tristan da Cunha, a territory of the United Kingdom, is a seven-day boat trip from South Africa, making it incredibly isolated. In fact, it is the most remote inhabited island in the world. The nearest mainland, South Africa, is 1,750 miles away. Only 250 people are reported to reside there.

The size of the MPA will be about 270,271 square miles of ocean, and it will be the fourth largest marine protected area in the world. Some species native to the island are sevengill sharks, millions of seabirds which include the yellow-nosed albatross, as well as whales, seals, and several species of penguins.

EcoWatch reports:

The new wildlife refuge will be a ‘no-take’ zone, banning bottom-trawling fishing, deep-sea mining and other harmful and extractive harvesting from its waters, National Geographic reported…

Critically, these protections will bolster the small Tristan Rock Lobster commercial fishery outside the sanctuary, which is the territory’s most important source of income, AP News reported. This luxury crayfish is sold to the U.S., Europe, Japan and China.”

The designation is a part of the United Kingdom’s “Blue Belt Programme,” which is funding marine protection initiatives in UK territories. So far, the program has protected 1% of the world’s oceans, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Many officials and environmental activists want the rest of the world to follow suit. The United Nations even has a goal to declare 30% of Earth’s oceans “protected” by 2030.

While this may be a no-brainer decision for the people of Tristan da Cunha, where it not only protects wildlife but also bolsters their native industry, it may be a tough sell for the rest of the world.

As nations come to grips with the severe economic hardships the coronavirus shutdowns have wreaked, governments will not have an easy time cutting off mining, fishing, and other industries that may operate in some of the areas the UN wants to declare as off limits.

To read the article in EcoWatch, click here.


  • Adam Houser

    Adam Houser coordinates student leaders as National Director of CFACT's collegians program and writes on issues of climate and energy.