The Largest Marine Reserve In The World In Pitcairn

The waters around Pitcairn Islands have been declared a marine reserve on Wednesday by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The marine reserve totals 322,000 square miles of ocean, making it the largest continuous ocean reserve on the planet. Home to a variety of marine life such as sharks, fish, and coral reefs, the reserve makes illegal any fishing or seafloor mining. The only exception is traditional fishing around the main island of Pitcairn by the native population.

The sheer size of the new marine reserve begs comparison. It is larger than France, and three times larger than the United Kingdom.

The announcement was made in the release of the United Kingdom’s 2015 budget plan. National Geographic ecologist, Enric Sala, said that the actual daily enforcing of the reserve will be carried out by satellite and various non-governmental organizations, paid for by funds already allocated in the budget plan. Sala also explained that the area has some of the most pristine and untouched waters in the world, along with untouched coral reefs and seamounts, which could hold species unknown to science.

The push for the marine reserve came from a 2012 expedition in which Sala videotaped new species of fish in deep-sea habitats around the Pitcairn Islands. After speaking with the Pitcairn Council, it was decided to approach the British government and ask for the surrounding waters to be declared a marine reserve. It was required to get the permission of the British government due to the Pitcairn Islands being an official territory of the United Kingdom.

Another reason behind the move is due to neighboring fishermen encroaching on the territory of the Pitcairn Islands with potentially harmful fishing practices. Sala noted that a great number of sharks have been overfished from the neighboring country of French Polynesia. The residents of the Pitcairn Islands are hoping to not only protect marine life, but create an environment that is conducive to tourism and adventure travel.

It is quite a trip, however. Sala explained that it takes days to get to the Pitcairn Islands, which is “longer than it takes to get to the moon,” he joked.