Wednesday, 18 March 2015


Leading conservation groups, scientists and residents of Pitcairn Island today congratulate the UK Government on its decision to create the world’s largest marine reserve around the Pitcairn Islands, a UK Overseas Territory in the South Pacific.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced in the Budget that “The government intends to proceed with designation of a MPA around Pitcairn”. This decision begins the process of creating a fully protected marine reserve, extending from 12 miles offshore of Pitcairn Island to the full 200 nautical mile limit of the Territory’s waters, encompassing over 830,000 square kilometres of ocean, an area about 3.5 times the size of the UK. 

When taking all 14 of its Overseas Territories into account, the UK is responsible for the fifth largest area of ocean in the world, measuring 6.8 million square kilometres, over twice the size of India, and nearly 30 times the size of the UK itself.  Some 94% of the UK’s biodiversity exists in these Territories. 

The announcement of the designation of a Pitcairn marine reserve means that the UK now has the two largest marine reserves in the world, the second largest being the Chagos marine reserve created around the British Indian Ocean Territory in 2010. This puts Britain virtually level-pegging with the USA, who top the table for the most marine area fully protected following the expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument by President Obama last year.  

Pitcairn’s waters host some of the best-preserved marine ecosystems on the planet and are of globally significant biological value. Over 1,200 marine species have been recorded around Pitcairn, including whales and dolphins, 365 species of fish, turtles, seabirds and corals. Forty-eight of these species are globally threatened – such as the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, and some are found nowhere else on Earth – such as the Pitcairn angelfish.

With the designation of the marine reserve, Pitcairn’s waters will become off-limits to all extractive and damaging activities, offering protection from overfishing and illegal pirate fishing, as well as deep-sea mining exploration, pollution and climate change.

Conservationists and the Island’s residents have been campaigning for the creation of a reserve around Pitcairn since 2013. In February 2015 a coalition of over 100 conservation and environmental organisations and scientists launched the campaign, to encourage the Government to create fully protected marine reserves in the UK Overseas Territories, principally around the Pitcairn Islands, Ascension Island in the Atlantic and the South Sandwich Islands in the Southern Ocean.

The coalition, led by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Zoological Society of London, the Blue Marine Foundation, the Marine Conservation Society, Greenpeace UK and the National Geographic Society today praises the creation of the Pitcairn marine reserve as a monumental step for ocean conservation. 

Excepting today’s announcement, only around 3% of the world’s ocean has any protection at all, and less than 1% is classified as ‘fully protected’. This is despite commitments from 194 countries to protect 10% of the entire global ocean by 2020. The designation of the Pitcairn marine reserve means that the UK Government is now fully protecting nearly a quarter (22%) of waters under British jurisdiction, and has increased the global fully protected area by a quarter.

Members of the Great British Oceans coalition now look forward to working with the Government on expanding the UK’s marine reserve network throughout other Overseas Territories, and the possibility of designating reserves in the waters of Ascension Island and the South Sandwich Islands in the near future. 

In conjunction with the designation, the Bertarelli Foundation announced a five-year commitment to support the monitoring of the Pitcairn reserve as part of Pew’s Project Eyes on the Seas. With this satellite system, developed by Pew and the UK-based Satellite Applications Catapult, government officials will be able to monitor and protect the reserve’s boundaries.     

A March 2012 scientific survey of Pitcairn's marine environment, led by the National Geographic Pristine Seas project in partnership with Pew, revealed a vibrant ecosystem that includes the world's deepest known living plant, a species of encrusting coralline algae found 382 metres (1,253 feet) below sea level. The reserve also protects one of the two remaining raised coral atolls on the planet as well as 40-Mile Reef, the deepest and most well-developed coral reef known in the world.

"Today’s action by Prime Minister Cameron will protect the true bounty of the Pitcairn Islands — the array of unique marine life in the surrounding pristine seas," said National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala, head of Society’s Pristine Seas project. "Our first-ever scientific exploration of the area revealed entirely new species as well as an abundance of top predators like sharks."
"It was like traveling to a new world full of hidden and unknown treasures, a world that will now be preserved for generations to come," said Sala.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

5 Swims in Antartica for 1 Reason

Pioneer Swimmer Lewis Pugh is taking to the ice again, to do five swims further south than any human has swum before.

During the month of February 2015, the United Nations Patron of the Oceans will undertake five record-breaking swims in freezing Antarctic waters to help save the Ross Sea from irreversible damage.
The five swims will form the most challenging and dangerous swimming effort ever undertaken by man. With no insulation other than a Speedo swimming costume, Lewis will break the world record for the most southerly swim in three of his five swims. As well as the obvious dangers of subjecting his body to the stresses of sub-zero water, Lewis will be swimming in seas patrolled by killer whales and leopard seals.

Why these five swims, and why now?
For one urgent reason: To gain global support for the Ross Sea to become an MPA (Marine Protected Area) that would limit human interference.
The Ross Sea is one of the most pristine marine ecosystems on the planet, and home to many species found nowhere else on earth. The historical records trapped in its ice-shelf tell the story of the evolution of our planet. As a result, the area is of huge significance to marine biologists and conservation groups who are determined to protect and learn from this unique stretch of ocean. But like all of our seas, it faces the threats of climate change and overfishing.

The proposed Ross Sea MPA is 1.34 million km2 – bigger than the UK, Germany and France put together – and will be the biggest protected area in the world, on land or in the sea.
The organisation responsible for creating MPAs in the region is the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). But for the past four years, their motion to establish an MPA in the Ross Sea has been held up by lack of consensus. CCAMLR is currently chaired by Russia. Which is why Lewis will be encouraging Russia to lead the world in conserving the Ross Sea.

“Over the past 30 years I’ve seen the devastating impacts of overfishing and climate change on our oceans,” Lewis says. “If we allow the Ross Sea to go the same way, its unique riches may be lost forever. My hope is that these symbolic swims will bring the beauty and wonder of Antarctica into the hearts and homes of people around the world so they will urge their governments to protect this unique ecosystem, which is truly a polar Garden of Eden.”

Lewis is a leading figure in efforts to protect the world’s oceans.
He is the only person to have completed a long distance swim in every ocean of the world. Over a period of 27 years, he has pioneered swims in the most hostile waters on earth including the Antarctic, the North Pole and the Himalayas, and developed an understanding of the beauty and fragility of life and its many eco-systems.

Last year Lewis became the first man to swim all the ancient Seven Seas, from the Mediterranean to the Arabian, to highlight the urgent need for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). This month he's heading back to the Antarctic, to undertake five swims in sub-zero temperatures at strategic points to support the call for the world's biggest, and arguably most critical, Marine Protected Area.
In 2013, the United Nations appointed him Patron of the Oceans. 

Lewis is an accomplished public speaker. In 2014, he addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos and his leadership address at the BIF Conference was voted one of the “7 Most Inspiring Speeches on the Web”. 
In 2010 the World Economic Forum named him a Young Global Leader and in 2013 he was inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.

For more information visit Lewis Pugh website

Wednesday, 11 February 2015


A coalition of leading conservation organisations are urging the British Government to protect over 1.8 million sq km of the world’s ocean by creating marine reserves in three of the UK’s overseas territories. 

Photo credit: Dan Laffoley
The creation of marine reserves around the Pitcairn Islands, Ascension Island and the South Sandwich Islands would create three of the largest marine reserves in the world and provide support for rare and threatened species living on these islands, from whales and turtles to rare seabirds, penguins and corals. 
By working in partnership with the UK Overseas Territories (UKOT) and their local communities to establish these marine reserves, the UK Government has the opportunity take global leadership in marine conservation, increasing the amount of the world’s ocean under full protection by 50%.

Photo credit: Dan Laffoley
The UK is responsible for the fifth largest area of ocean in the world, measuring 6.8 million square kilometres, over twice the size of India, and nearly 30 times the size of the UK itself. These waters are amongst the most diverse marine portfolio on earth, with the Overseas Territories housing 94% of the UK’s unique biodiversity. If left unprotected, these fragile ecosystems face huge threats from overfishing, illegal pirate fishing, pollution and climate change.  

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Greenpeace UK, IUCN, the Zoological Society of London, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Marine Conservation Society, National Geographic Society and Mission Blue are among the 106 signatories to have signed a statement of support for the creation of these large-scale marine reserves. 
They are calling on the British government to protect over 1.75 million km2 of the world’s oceans by creating large‐scale and fully‐protected marine reserves in three of the UKOTs – the Pitcairn Islands, Ascension Island, and South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands.

Photo credit: Dan Laffoley

Pitcairn Islands (834,000km2)
With unanimous support from the local community and Pitcairn Island Council, a marine reserve in Pitcairn would offer protection to some of the most pristine waters and coral reefs on earth, providing international recognition and connecting this Territory to global marine science and tourism.

Ascension Island (443,000km2)
A green turtle mecca and one of the last remaining hotspots for Atlantic megafauna such as tuna, marlin and shark. Ascension’s waters offer a rare opportunity for large‐scale marine protection in the tropical Atlantic.
Photo credit: Dan Laffoley

South Sandwich Islands (530,000 km2)
Uninhabited by humans, the volcanic South Sandwich Islands host huge concentrations of wildlife, including vast penguin colonies and significant whale populations.

The UK Government could fully protect these areas from all extractive and damaging activity by  providing a globally significant contribution to ocean conservation and  leaving a historic legacy for people and wildlife at very little cost. 

Photo credit: Dan Laffoley
In fact, enforcing and monitoring these marine reserves would be cost-effective. Pioneering satellite technology designed and developed in the UK by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Satellite Applications Catapult, and the UK Government, would allow analysts to identify and monitor illegal fishing practices in marine reserves, as well as alert them to vessels acting suspiciously. 
The Pew Charitable Trusts has committed to support the monitoring of the Pitcairn marine reserve for the initial five years. 

Dr Sylvia Earle, whose Mission Blue foundation has identified Ascension and Pitcairn as two of the world’s 50 Hope Spots, places worthy and able to make a difference to global marine conservation, said: “We have a long way to go to reach our global pledge of protecting 10% of the world’s ocean by 2010 so action needs to be taken now to protect these precious ecosystems. By protecting its overseas territories, the UK has the potential to create the largest marine reserve in the world and make a significant contribution to this global target.” 

Photo credit: Dan Laffoley
Increasing pressure is mounting on the British government to meet the globally agreed target of protecting 10% of the world’s oceans by 2020. In September last year, U.S President Barack Obama significantly expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, a group of five highly protected reserves located thousands of miles southwest of the Hawaiian Islands. By designating Ascension, Pitcairn, and the South Sandwich Islands as reserves, the coalition believes the UK has a unique chance to surpass this commitment and take its place as the world leader in marine protection. 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Government of Madagascar Creates Country’s First Shark Sanctuary and Grants Local Communities Exclusive Use and Management Rights to Fishing Areas

The Government of Madagascar has created the country’s first marine sanctuary for sharks as part of a new law to safeguard the country’s marine resources and the communities that rely on them, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Photo credit: Jürg Brand   Photo credit: Ambroise Brenier / WCS  Photo credit: Jürg Brand
At a February 2nd press conference held in Antananarivo, Madagascar, the Malagasy government announced the initiation of a new law that establishes a shark sanctuary in Antongil Bay while granting coastal communities exclusive use and management rights for local fishing areas. The new law also restricts international fishing trawlers from fishing in Antongil Bay, the largest bay in Madagascar.

“With the support from Wildlife Conservation Society, we chose a participatory and collaborative approach for the development of this law and management plan and we opted for the search for a balance between fishing activities and ecological integrity to ensure rational and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources” said Mr. Ahmad, Minister of Marine Resources and Fisheries at the press conference in Antananarivo.

“Long-term strategic alliances and partnerships forged with local communities, government agencies such as the Ministry of Marine Resources and Fisheries, and stakeholders during two decades of field presence of WCS investing in wildlife protection and sustainable natural resources management in Antongil Bay is key to this success,” said Alison Clausen, Country Director of WCS’s Madagascar Program. “WCS looks forward to working with the Government of Madagascar to implement this new pilot fisheries co-management initiative in Antongil Bay and promote its replication to other sites.”

The WCS Madagascar Program works throughout Madagascar to ensure the long-term conservation of the country’s unique biological diversity with a focus on activities in Antongil Bay and other priority landscape/seascapes such as Makira Natural Park, Masoala National Park, Antongil Bay, Nosy Be seascape and the Toliara seascape.

The new shark sanctuary is home to 19 species of shark, a third of which have become severely threatened by unregulated fishing. The new law legally empowers local communities to manage nearshore fishing grounds through a growing network of locally managed marine areas (LMMAs), 25 of which have already been established with the support of WCS. The regulations of these areas—including no-take marine reserves and temporary closures—are locally designed and enforced. By securing management and use rights of LMMAs for local communities for the first time in Madagascar, the law aims to transform marine resources from open access areas that typically result in short-term exploitation at the expense of long-term sustainability to exclusive access for local fishers who can garner the benefits of managing their own marine resources.

The law also establishes collaborative arrangements between artisanal and industrial fishers, civil society, and government to work together on the sustainable management of fisheries in some 3,746 square kilometers, an area covering Antongil Bay and surrounding areas. At the same time, the law restricts industrial trawling boats from fishing in this area.

Madagascar’s local fisheries provide livelihoods and food security for hundreds of thousands of some of the poorest coastal communities in the world. The new law will facilitate a system of co-management between communities, fishers, and government to manage their local fish populations.

The regulatory changes build on previous initiatives to decentralize the management of marine resources and establish local fisheries management plans and collaborative management arrangements.  At the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress, his Excellency Hery Rajaonarimampianina, President of Madagascar, noted that Madagascar “already [has] positive models of locally managed marine areas, of which Madagascar is proud to be a pioneer in the Western Indian Ocean region.” He emphasized his commitment “to establish legal and regulatory frameworks for community management of marine and coastal resources.”

Venor Rason, a local fisher and President of the community association managing the LMMA of Analanjahana in the southern part of Antongil Bay said : “We are very pleased to hear that this new law that we helped develop has been released. It will help us manage sustainably our marine resources by limiting the number of small-scale and industrial fishers allowed to fish in the bay and by delivering fishing licenses to local professional fishers.”

Dr. Ambroise Brenier, Marine Technical Director of WCS’s Madagascar Program, said: “This pilot initiative will reduce coral reef degradation, improve abundance of endangered species of sharks, and sustain fisheries yields with long-term livelihoods and food security benefits thanks to restored fish stocks potentially reaching 100,000 coastal inhabitants living around Antongil Bay.” 

About the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit:;  Follow: @thewcs.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

National Geographic Challenge for Big Thinkers.

Share your idea for a challenge that could help solve an issue that's important to the fields of science, exploration, or conservation. 

National Geographic is challenging “big thinkers” to propose a competition that will address a critical issue in the fields of science, exploration, or conservation and will inspire people to come forward with a breakthrough solution as part of the eventual prize application process.

In 2012-2013, National Geographic hosted a similar program. At the time, the idea selected focused on addressing energy poverty and came to be known as the Terra Watt Prize, which was completed in 2014.

National Geographic is now soliciting ideas for the next big challenge. If your idea is selected, you will be awarded $10,000 and your proposed idea could become a full competition. All submitted ideas will receive detailed feedback from five qualified judges.

Be sure to read through the application requirements at, which will help you frame your idea. 

Timeline: Register and Apply

To compete, you need to register by March 31, 2015, and submit your completed application by April 14, 2015.You can see a more comprehensive timeline and learn about the judging process and credentials of the judges here.

Reviewing Submissions

Two categories of judges were carefully selected to ensure a rigorous review of your application. We encourage you to read their credentials.

Evaluation Panel
This first category of judges, the Evaluation Panel, will produce a rank order of applicants by using a common scoring process. Each applicant will be assigned five Evaluation Panel members, and their scores will be statistically normalised to ensure fairness. Their scores will determine the rank order of applications.

Selection Committee
The second and final category of judges, the Selection Committee, will determine the winner. Before the winner is announced, every registrant who completed the application will receive scores and comments designed to provide productive feedback and encourage discussion for those who may have interest in finding other means for launching their proposals. This process helps ensure a value-added experience for all participants.


The judges are impartial to the ideas you submit. They are scoring your idea based on the degree of impact and the structure of your proposed challenge. For a more detailed explanation of the scoring process, please see the trait scoring rubric.

For more information and to apply please visit the official National Geographic Challenge Website: 

Good Luck!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Progress towards a legally-binding treaty to safeguard the ocean beyond national boundaries

States took a major step toward urgently needed ocean protection at the UN the 24 January 2015 agreeing to develop a legally binding agreement to conserve marine life in the high seas

After four days of deliberations States reached consensus to begin negotiating the first UN treaty that specifically addresses the protection of marine life in an area covering half the planet – those ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Progress came despite pressure from a small group of governments that questioned the need for a new legal framework. That minority blocked agreement on a faster timeline reflecting the clear scientific imperative for action, but all countries agreed on the need to act.

“A legally-binding treaty for our global ocean commons is essential to build a healthy, resilient and productive ocean for the benefit of us all, future generations included. Indeed, for the two thirds of the ocean beyond national jurisdiction, international cooperation is the only way forward,” says Aurélie Spadone, Programme Officer with IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme.

A formal preparatory committee will start work in early 2016 to craft the elements of a draft treaty under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Though no end date to the negotiations could be agreed, the General Assembly is to take a decision by September 2018 on the convening of an intergovernmental conference, under the auspices of the United Nations, to finalise and adopt the text.Mission Blue’s Dr Sylvia Earle said “Armed with new knowledge, we are taking our first steps to safeguard the high seas and keep the world safe for our children.”

“Though the final results remain uncertain, many have high hopes for the new treaty,” says Kristina M. Gjerde, IUCN Senior High Seas Advisor. “It could help secure the designation of a truly global system of marine protected areas, mainstream biodiversity conservation into the governance of high seas fisheries, shipping and seabed mining, and provide for more effective access to marine genetic resources. The treaty could also also foster important new scientific and commercial discoveries while ensuring the benefits are shared by all.”

For over a decade, IUCN has been fostering the scientific knowledge and legal analysis to understand how we can better manage the vast marine realm beyond national boundaries. It has organised seminars for government representatives and growing networks of experts, and, together with its many partners, will continue to contribute towards an effective and equitable international agreement.

The High Seas Alliance will continue to press for a strong resolution by the UN General assembly for a new agreement under UNCLOS that will ensure a healthy global ocean for the long-term.

High Seas

The high seas is the ocean beyond any country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) - amounting to 64% of the ocean - and the ocean seabed that lies beyond the continental shelf of any country. These areas make up nearly 50% of the surface of the Earth and include some of the most environmentally important, critically threatened and least protected ecosystems on the planet. Only an international High Seas Biodiversity Agreement would address the inadequate, highly fragmented and poorly implemented legal and institutional framework that is currently failing to protect the high seas – and therefore the entire global ocean – from the multiple threats they face in the 21st century.

Ocean Governance: a brief background

The high seas are open to all states, whether coastal or land-locked. Freedom of the high seas, and particularly the governance of high seas fishing, is exercised under the conditions laid down in 'Part VII: High Seas' of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which entered into force in 1994, and in the 1995 Agreement on the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks And Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (known as the UN Fish Stocks Agreement), which entered into force in 2001.

The FAO Code of Conduct on Responsible Fisheries integrates the requirements of UNCLOS and the Fish Stocks Agreement, as well as bridging them with the wider requirements of the UN Convention on Environment and Development (UNCED).

High seas resources are currently primarily managed by regional fishery organizations (RFOs) charged with organizing international cooperation around a number of tasks, including: the collection of fishery statistics; the assessment of the state of resources; the imparting of scientific advice; management decisions; and monitoring. The implementation and enforcement of measures is, however, usually the prerogative of the Flag State, and the relative effectiveness of RFOs varies from region to region, and task to task.

High Seas Alliance

The High Seas Alliance is a partnership of organizations and groups aimed at building a strong common voice and constituency for the conservation of the high seas. The Alliance is currently made up of 27 NGOs plus the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The objective of the Alliance is to facilitate international cooperation to establish high seas protected areas and to strengthen high seas governance.

For further information, please contact:

Kristina M. Gjerde, IUCN Senior High Seas Advisor, or
Aurelie Spadone, IUCN Programme Officer, Global Marine and Polar Programme