The United Kingdom plans to create the world’s largest fully protected marine reserve in South Pacific waters surrounding the Pitcairn Islands—and they are counting on satellites to help police it. Yesterday’s announcement of the 834,334-square-kilometer reserve marks the latest move to create a mega–marine reserve, following similar moves by other nations.
“This is a major development in marine conservation,” says Elliott Norse, chief scientist of the Marine Conservation Institute in Seattle, Washington. “Adding another really big, important, protected area to the world’s pathetically small list of big, imported protected areas—that’s a big thing.”
The announcement of the reserve, which will bar commercial fishing, mining, and other extractive uses, came in the U.K. government’s 2015 budget. It states that designation of the reserve “will be dependent upon reaching agreement with [nongovernmental organizations] on satellite monitoring” of reserve users, including fishing fleets, and on reaching deals with regional port authorities “to prevent landing of illegal catch.” The government also wants to identify “a practical naval method of enforcing” sea life protections “at a cost that can be accommodated within existing departmental expenditure limits.”