Tristan da Cunha Conservation News
News and reports from the Tristan da Cunha Government's Conservation Department.

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Creating a Blue Belt around the Tristan da Cunha Islands

Report from Jake Turnbull
Communications Advisor at the Marine Management Organisation (MMO)

The MMO is one of the partners working with the Tristan da Cunha Government to establish a bespoke marine conservation zone around the Tristan da Cunha Islands by 2020.

Flag of Tristan da Cunha

Managing Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing

As part of the Blue Belt programme the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) are working in partnership with the Tristan da Cunha Overseas Territory to ensure their waters are effectively protected, managed and monitored.

One of the challenges facing maritime administrations across the world is the problem of Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing (IUU). IUU is estimated to cost the global economy $20bn annually, and is a cover for other illegal activities such as slavery and smuggling.

Sue Scott's photo shows a Tristan crawfish or Rock Lobster

It robs legitimate fishermen and governments of revenue; undermines the accuracy of fisheries’ stock assessments and thwarts efforts to manage marine fisheries responsibly. It is also damaging to the legitimate, local fishing industry, undermining productivity and in some cases precipitating the collapse of vital local industries. Ultimately, IUU threatens the stability of coastal communities that rely on the sustainable, legal trade.

What is the Blue Belt project doing to help?

The Blue Belt project is developing a number of projects across all the overseas territories which aim to:

  • improve scientific understanding of the marine environment
  • develop and implement evidence based, tailored marine management strategies including surveillance and enforcement ensure management is sustainable and long term

There are a number of innovative projects we are currently involved in on the island of Tristan da Cuhna. One of the biggest issues the Tristan da Cuhna administration have identified is the problem of IUU.

Packaging for Tristan Rock Lobster from the fishing company Ovenstones

We are therefore undertaking a project that reviews how we can work with local fisheries officers to best utilise data from a satellite based vessel-tracking system called the Automatic Identification System (AIS). We are also working with the Tristan da Cunha government to incorporate data from AIS with other intelligence to better target monitoring and enforcement activities.

MMO image of a satellite above the earth

What evidence do we have to support our work?

Numerous studies show that IUU is a significant problem that needs to be addressed. You can read more about some of the innovations — and our partners.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also completed a comprehensive project using synthetic-aperture radar satellite imagery to assess the scale, location and of the problem of IUU around Tristan da Cunha and the other OTs within the Blue Belt programme. This data has been correlated against AIS and other sources of data, and from this we are able to help identify the scale and source of potential problems.

Tristan Da Cunha has high level of marine traffic passing through its waters, transiting between South Africa and South America. There are also significant tuna fisheries in the area. Our review of a range of intelligence suggests that some foreign-flagged fishing vessels may be undertaking a range of illegal fishing activities in Tristan Da Cunha waters, as they follow a number of rare and highly valuable fish.

Richard Hewitt's photo shows a Tristan Albatross flying off Tristan

What are we doing about it?

It’s a challenging operation. Tristan da Cunha is the most remote inhabited island in the world. They have a vast marine area to protect and with only 300 people living on the island, resources are limited. However, the islanders have exceptional knowledge of their waters and display excellent seamanship. To support them, as part of our Blue Belt work, we sent a marine officer to Tristan da Cunha and chartered a vessel to patrol around the outer edge of the Tristan da Cunha Economic Fishing Zone. We worked closely with the island’s fisheries officers, who took part in the patrol, sharing knowledge.

MMO Officer takes part in an enforcement patrol around the island of Tristan da Cunha

During the patrol, we commissioned additional satellite imagery in near real-time, to target patrol operations at locations where suspicious vessels were sighted.

The patrol provided the MMO and Tristan Da Cuhna fisheries department with a great opportunity to share expertise. Patrolling such a vast, remote expanse of sea can be challenging, but by sharing intelligence and using innovative technologies, we can better target our monitoring and enforcement activities.

The message for those vessel operators who choose to fish illegally around the island is clear: regardless of which flag you fly, there are consequences to illegal fishing.

Richard Hewitt's photo shows a group of Great Shearwaters off Gough Island

Can I access the data?

The MMO has developed open source software tools to process AIS data that can be downloaded using following link: MMO1066 AIS tool distribution package.

The tool is available under open government license and so you do not require permission to develop it for your own needs; however we would be interested to learn of the work you carry out with the tool and any improvements you may make to tool.

The UK Overseas Territories Blue Belt programme

The UK and its Overseas Territories (OTs) are custodians to the fifth-largest marine estate in the world. UK OTs hold biodiversity of global significance, from vast penguin colonies to tropical rainforests.

85% of the critically endangered species UK Government is responsible for are within UK OTs

Some of the species and habitats present in UK Overseas Territories are found nowhere else on earth

Only 6 percent of the species unique to the UK are in Britain – 94 percent are in our overseas territories

Richard Hewitt's photo shows an Atlantic Yellow-Nosed Albatross flying off Tristan da Cunha

The Blue Belt programme is a partnership between the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas). Funding is provided through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) on behalf of Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

National Geographic Pristine Seas Film Premiere in London

Report from Richard Grundy, with additional photos from Peter Millington

A large attendance of Tristan Government representatives, Tristan da Cunha Association members, scientists and other Tristan da Cunha stakeholders met at the Royal Geographical Society at 6pm on 27th July 2017 to attend an evening programme titled 'In Celebration of Tristan da Cunha'.

Opening slide shown in the RGS Lecture Theatre

Hosted by the National Geographic Society and the RSPB, the evening's MC was Paul Rose, leader of the Pristine Seas Expedition to Tristan da Cunha held in January and February 2017.

The evening celebration started with welcome drinks in the famous RGS Map Room. Many guests had attended the workshop to plan Tristan's Blue Belt Commitments held the same day at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall and here they greeted friends and colleagues gathered for the unique event.

Proceeding to the prestigious RGS Ondaatje Theatre, the scene of many famous geographical presentations in the past, Paul Rose welcomed everybody and outlined the huge success of the Pristine Seas Expedition.

Pristine Seas Expedition Leader Paul Rose giving his introductory speech of welcome

Following Paul, the large audience was addressed by the enthusiastic Jenn Caselle who was Chief Scientist of the Pristine Seas Expedition. Jenn is from the Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and made those present aware of the brilliant work the expedition was able to carry out in excellent weather conditions which allowed the full scientific programme to be carried out.

Paul also introduced Jonathan Hall who is Head of UK Overseas Territories at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Jonathon was also a member of the Pristine Seas Expedition where he worked alongside members of the Tristan da Cunha Conservation and Fisheries Departments led by Trevor and James Glass, the latter present this evening.

There followed the premiere of the National Geographic Film which held the audience spellbound and afterwards was followed by spontaneous applause. The photography was stunning, particularly the drone photos of the Tristan da Cunha Islands, especially those approaching the Tristan Settlement and those hovering over Nightingale Island's High Ridge. Many sequences were taken under water and the whole showcased the amazing land and sea scientific work carried out by the expedition team. It was also fitting that the Tristan community was set at the heart of the film, with Heads of Department Dawn Repetto (Tourism), James Glass (Fisheries) and Trevor Glass (Conservation) joining Chief Islander Ian Lavarello in being interviewed to promote the island as it seeks a sustainable future in harmony with its special environment, now recognised by the Gough and Inaccessible Islands World Heritage Sites.

A copy of the 35 minute film will be sent to Tristan da Cunha and it is hoped also to show it at a future Tristan Association Annual Gathering. It is likely to be broadcast across the world and will no doubt play a pivotal role in making a wider audience aware of the very special Tristan da Cunha Islands.

Tristan Administrator Sean Burns addresses the gathering

Once applause for the film at last died down, Paul Rose introduced Sean Burns who thanked National Geographic and RSPB for organising the splendid evening as well as all those attending from the UK and overseas. Sean reported on a successful three days of workshops, two at the RSPB's Bedfordshire HQ held earlier in the week, leading up to the main Blue Belt Workshop at the FCO during 27th July, all working towards the Tristan da Cunha Government's commitment to establishing its own version of a Marine Conservation Area by 2020. Sean emphasised how successful Tristan already was in achieving Marine Stewardship Award for its sustainable lobster fishery and its partnership with the RSPB and other agencies to monitor and protect its precious wildlife habitat. He outlined embryo plans to extend studies to ensure that Tristan's marine ecosystem would be protected and enhanced in the future by working together.

Celebration drinks and delicious food being enjoyed in the RGS Main Hall

All then gathered in the main RGS foyer where we were treated not only to a choice if wines and soft drinks, hot and cold food served by staff, but were also presented with a copy of the National Geographic Pristine Seas, RSPB and Tristan da Cunha Government Expedition Report titled 'Ecosystem Assessment of the Tristan da Cunha Islands'. This lavishly produced, spiral-bound publication is packed with beautiful photographs, maps, tables, statistics and report and is a most welcome addition to the bibliography of the islands.

Overall, it was a privilege to attend this special event 'In Celebration of Tristan da Cunha' at what is regarded as the most important geographical venue in the world. It was a special night for many Tristan da Cunha Association members who attended, including former Administrator Mike Hentley, now Vice-Chair of the association and islander Hazel Carter with her husband Barry. We were all most grateful to be invited and thank the organisers for a splendid evening. Looking around the packed Main Hall we hope many of the young scientists getting to know Tristan for the first time will join the Association and attend our own Annual Gatherings held in Southampton on the Saturday after Easter each year.

Key Stakeholders meet to discuss Tristan's Blue Belt Commitment

Workshop held at the London FCO for Tristan to plan its strategy to protect its marine environment by 2020.
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Page Updated: Conservation documents available to download

The Tristan da Cunha Conservation Department leads work to protect the islands' wildlife and control alien invasive species.
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Kieran Glass to make Ocean Pledge at New York UNESCO event

Tristan Islander travels to New York for World Ocean Day representing the Gough and Inaccessible Island World Heritage Site
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Talk in London by RSPB's Alex Bond on 12th June 2017

RSPB's Alex Bond will give a talk on 'Gough Island – an unnatural history of mice and birds'
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Video of 'Pristine Seas' Work at Tristan

A video trailer has been released of the 'Pristine Seas' expedition's work in the Tristan islands.
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Three Elephants Seals on Boatharbour Beach

Three elephant seals were seen on the beach at Boatharbour Bay on 30th March 2017.
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Swallow sighted at Tristan

A swallow was observed flying over the Tristan Settlement on 21st March 2017
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