The Blue Belt Programme aims to create marine conservations zones around the UK's Overeas Territories, including the Tristan da Cunha group of islands.

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News of Tristan's planning and implementation of the Blue Belt Programme. This is a UK strategy to protect the marine environment of its Overseas Territories, including the Tristan da Cunha group of islands, by establishing marine conservation zones. The UK Government has provided funding up to 2020 to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) to provide the expertise and advice the OTs might need to formulate and deliver the strategy.

Tristan's Marine Protection Zone Announced

Creation of the Atlantic Ocean's largest conservation area
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Chief Islander reports on Tristan's Marine Protection Zone

Report and photos from Tristan da Cunha Chief Islander and Director of Fisheries James Glass

View of Stoltenhoff Island with part of Inaccessible Island visible behind, right.

Chief Islander James Glass
reflects on the implementation
of Tristan's Marine Protection Zone -
announced on Friday 13th November 2020


Situated in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, on the edge of the Roaring Forties, lies a group of islands unknown to most of the world's population. Tristan da Cunha covers a small land area - about one-tenth the size of London - but it has an exclusive economic zone almost three times the size of the United Kingdom: 754,000 square kilometres, or 291,121 square miles. On the main island resides the world's remotest community, of 246 people. Today, there's hardly a place on earth that you can't reach in a week, but Tristan da Cunha has no airport, so Tristanians rely entirely on the service they receive from the sea.

In September 2016 the Tristan Island Council, in consultation with the U.K. government, committed to establish by 2020 a new marine protection regime in its waters. This historic move is further fulfilment of the UK's commitment to create a 4 million square kilometre 'Blue Belt' around its Overseas Territories, and will help cement its place as the world leader in marine conservation.

James Glass
Chief Islander James Glass

Wild coast of Tristan: Showing a Seastack, known as a Hardie on the island.

Wild coast of Tristan: Showing a Seastack, known as a Hardie on the island.

Today we're delighted to announce our Marine Protection Zone, 25 years after declaring Gough Island within our archipelago a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Tristan da Cunha MPZ is the fourth largest fully-protected marine reserve on the planet, and the biggest in the Atlantic.

Subantarctic fur seals and Northern rockhopper penguins on Nightingale Island

Subantarctic fur seals and Northern rockhopper penguins on Nightingale Island

As well as the World Heritage Site, which is now extended to Inaccessible Island, our chain of four tiny islands holds many unique species. The Spectacled Petrel is endemic to Inaccessible, breeding nowhere else on earth. 80% of the world's population of Subantarctic Fur Seals breed in our archipelago, as do more than 90% of the world's population of Northern Rockhopper Penguins. Southern Right Whales and their calves can be spotted, as well as the rarely seen Shepherd's Beaked Whale. Tristan's waters are rich in history, and house the MSC-certified fishery for Tristan rock lobster (Jasus tristani) on which the local economy depends. Thanks to this sustainable fishery the community is largely self-supporting: lobster provides over 80% of the island's income and our way of life relies on it.

Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross on Nightngale Island

Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross on Nightngale Island

The Tristan community have supported the MPZ, just as they supported the earlier commitment to conservation of more than 50% of their land area. Stewardship of a precious environment is the reason we're protecting 90% of our waters: we're proud that we can play a key role in preserving the health of the oceans.

However, Tristan is not a prosperous island and it should be noted that these decisions will have an economic impact. For example, while I recognise that banning bottom trawling will be good for stock management and the health of the ocean floor, it also leads to the loss of much needed revenue. Tristan also relies on fishing ventures to boost traffic to and from the island, as by law each ship can only carry 12 passengers either way, currently for just eight trips a year. Every voyage is part-subsidised by fishing activity, so curbs on fishing mean curbs on our link with the outside world.

The current average salary on Tristan is roughly £275 a month (after taxes and pension). Imported goods in the world's remotest community can cost 75% - 95% more than they would in South Africa or the UK. Whilst islanders welcome the MPZ and want to play their part for the environment, they are struggling to keep up with inflation, let alone to improve their modest standard of living.

Any loss of fishing revenue to the island also means a loss to Tristan's public finances, with less to spend on infrastructure, education, healthcare and other vital services. So we welcome the support we have received via donors, with help from the RSPB.  Hopefully this and other projects deriving from implementing our MPZ will mitigate some of the loss and we're grateful to all the donor organisations.

Gough Island showing The Glen valley

Gough Island showing The Glen valley in the middle foreground where the Gough Island Scientific Survey set up their base in 1955 and which was the site of the South Africa Government Metereological Station from 1956-1963.
Gough Island was created a World Heritage Site in 1995 and Inaccessible Island was added in 2004.

With this announcement, the Blue Belt moves into unique territory. Tristan da Cunha is the first participant to come to the project with both a permanent population and an existing commercial fishery. It's not the same as South Georgia, Ascension or Pitcairn. The very foundation of the Tristan economy, and thus the livelihood and wellbeing of the islanders, is the commercial fishery for Tristan rock lobster and whitefish. This will continue alongside the MPZ.

We will continue to work with the Blue Belt teams at the Marine Management Organisation and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science to update the necessary legislation and management plans to manage our MPZ. I would also like to thank the British Antarctic Survey, the RSPB, the Darwin Plus scheme, and fishing companies Ovenstone Agencies (in Tristan) and Argos (in the Falkland Islands) for their contribution to the data collection which has made possible this momentous development.

James and his wife Felicity in New York on World Oceans Day on 8th June 2017

In 2017 my wife and I had the privilege to be guests at the United Nations in New York, where my grandson Kieran Glass represented the island and the wider UK family before the General Assembly. Kieran was among children from UNESCO's marine World Heritage Sites who pledged to world leaders that they would protect their ocean environments. I am proud that we are honouring his pledge.

In the future I hope these protections will help improve Tristan's marine environment to deal with the impact of climate change, which should help safeguard the species which live here, and the people who depend on them.

James Glass

Chief Islander - Tristan da Cunha

View looking west from the Tristan da Cunha Settlement Plain
showing Hillpiece and, in the far distance the outline of Inaccessible Island,
which, together with Gough Island forms a World Heritage Site.

World Ocean Day Tristan Blue Belt Update

Tristan da Cunha's
Marine Protection Zone

will be formally announced
later in 2020.

In the meantime, Tristan da Cunha's
on-going Blue Belt work
is celebrated in the
Blue Belt Programme
Annual Update for 2019/2020
published on
World Ocean Day
8th June 2020


The full document is available as a PDF download.


The relevant pages
are reproduced below:

Tristan central to Parliament OT Environment Meeting

Blue Belt and Gough Restoration plans discussed
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Illegal Fishing focus at London Blue Belt Workshop

Tristan represented as technology surveillance is explained
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Page Updated: ATBA: Areas To Be Avoided in Tristan Waters

Instructions to all shipping to avoid sailing near land
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Tristan represented at Cornwall Blue Belt Symposium

Video showcases Tristan's Wildlife
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Tristan represented at inaugural DEFRA-OT meeting

Overseas Territories briefed on environmental and Brexit matters
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Wave Dancer hand-over ceremony

Event at Lymington in Hampshire
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RRS Discovery's Tristan cruise ends

Review of the March 2019 expedition's work towards Blue Belt plans
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RRS Discovery departs for St Helena

Blue Belt Expedition completes its Tristan Exclusive Economic Zone work
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Natural History Museum event links with RRS Discovery

March 2019 event showcases on-going Blue Belt research in a live video link.
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RRS Discovery arrives at Tristan

Multi-discipline team change-over, March 2019.
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RRS Discovery wildlife observations

On the outward journey from the Falkland Islands to Tristan
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RRS Discovery departs Falklands for Tristan

Latest episode of Blue Belt research gets underway
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Blue Belt talks at London Zoo

Event organised by the Marine Management Organisation
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Chief Islander in UK Blue Belt Meetings

Ian Lavarello takes part in second week of consultations
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JMC Week Highlights

Tristan at centre stage of Overseas Territories' big week
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Tristan Fisheries Department's excellent work celebrated

RSPB report to coincide with World Wildlife Conservation Day
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Planning a Tristan da Cunha Marine Protection Strategy

Report of July 2018 London Meeting
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Trip to Inaccessible and Nightingale Islands using new RIB

Tristan Conservation Department trip to support field work teams.
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Wave Dancer in UK for refurbishment

Tristan's Fisheries Patrol boat arrives in UK for Blue Belt funded repairs
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Blue Belt Annual Update Published

2017/18 Programme Booklet available to download
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Tristan Blue Belt Summary

Oliver Yates from Cefas summarises progress up to June 2018
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Tristan represented at No 10 Environment Meeting

UKOTA meets Sir John Randall, the Prime Minister’s Special Adviser for the Environment on 24th May 2018
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Blue Belt survey aboard RRS James Clark Ross

March 2018 Blue Belt survey provides vital data for Tristan's marine protection zone plans
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DEFRA Minister briefed on Tristan's Blue Belt Programme

Reception held aboard HMS Belfast on 18th April
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London Blue Belt event aboard the ship CEFAS Endeavour

Tristan’s Blue Belt work showcased to Commonwealth leaders and promoted to UK schools
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Report from Oliver Yates

Senior Cefas Marine Science Advisor visits Tristan da Cunha Islands January-February 2018
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Bluenose survey around Gough Island and McNish seamount

On-going Blue Belt research on MFV Edinburgh
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RRS James Clark Ross Expedition Newsletter

RRS James Clark Ross visited Tristan da Cunha waters 22-31 March 2018
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RRS James Clark Ross visits Tristan

Presentation of Blue Belt research given to island community
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Tristan Blue Belt plans presented to MPs

UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove leads delegation of MPs committed to marine protection
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RRS James Clark Ross helps Tristan's Blue Belt plans

UK marine research ship to carry out Tristan EEZ seamount surveys in March 2018
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Report on Tristan da Cunha Marine Protection Planning Workshop

Blue Belt July 2017 London Workshop Report available to download
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Cefas officer assists Tristan with Blue Belt Work

Update on Oliver Yates' work on Tristan's Blue Belt plans.
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Blue Belt Update

Cefas and MMO team visit Tristan
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Blue Belt Representatives to visit Tristan in January 2018

RMS St Helena's final Tristan voyage brings MMO and Cefas scientists to Tristan
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Creating a Blue Belt around the Tristan da Cunha Islands

Update on progress towards a bespoke marine protection zone by 2020
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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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