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Tiny Tristan da Cunha protects vast ocean area

Tristan da Cunha
A Yellow-nosed Albatross sits on its nest on Nightingale Island in the Tristan da Cunha archipelago. Photo by Charles Bergman/Shutterstock

One of the most significant conservation actions in recent memory was announced in mid-November when the government of Tristan da Cunha, a volcanic archipelago in the south Atlantic and part of the U.K.’s overseas territories, said that almost 700,000 sq. km of its waters (270,300 sq. miles) will become a marine protected area, the fourth largest such sanctuary in the world.

The move protects the globally threatened Yellow-nosed Albatross and Atlantic Petrel, Rockhopper Penguin, and other birds found in the region. And it’s a step toward the U.K. government’s goal of protecting 30 percent of the world’s oceans by 2030.

The U.K., which has a duty to protect wildlife found in all its territories, will be responsible for the long-term monitoring and enforcement of the area, which is about three times the size of Great Britain.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds cheered the news. “Tristan da Cunha is a place like no other,” said Beccy Speight, its chief executive. “The waters that surround this remote U.K. 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.”

Lord Goldsmith, the U.K.’s minister for the environment, described the announcement as a “huge environmental win” and a “critically important step in protecting the world’s biodiversity and ecosystems.”

This article was published in “Birding Briefs” in the January/February 2021 issue of BirdWatching magazine. Subscribe now

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