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Marine Conservation Institute Celebrates the Creation of Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve

The Titan triggerfish, a voracious predator, being cleaned by a cleaner wrasse. Credit: Enric Sala, National Geographic

The Titan triggerfish, a voracious predator, being cleaned by a cleaner wrasse. Credit: Enric Sala, National Geographic.                                

This month was an exciting milestone for the marine conservation world as the UK government made a commitment to create Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve, the world’s largest contiguous marine reserve, covering 322,138 square miles – an area larger than California or the UK. We applaud the UK government and the Great British Oceans Coalition for making this happen!

Considered one of the most remote island groups in the world, the Pitcairn Islands are a British overseas territory located in the South Pacific Ocean, and are home to at least 1,249 species of fish, marine mammals, and seabirds. The marine reserve boasts an impressive range of species which inhabit the complex community of soft and hard corals. Some of these species are only found in this part of the world, such as the many-spined butterfly fish and a unique species of squirrelfish.

The establishment of the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve is part of an international movement to protect marine biodiversity, which so far has preserved more than 2.5 million square miles of ocean. It is an inspirational undertaking to witness; just last fall President Obama expanded the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument located in the south-central Pacific Ocean, creating the largest non-contiguous marine protected area.

In 2010, countries attending the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity committed to protecting 10% of the world’s oceans by 2020. More recently, at the International Union of Conservation of Nature World Parks Congress, this target was increased to 30% by 2030.  However, despite these lofty goals and recent designations of very large marine reserves, less than 1% of the world’s oceans are in strongly protected marine reserves. Thus, further efforts to conserve highly biodiverse spots, such as the recent marine reserve in the Pitcairn Islands, is something to celebrate!

MPAtlas Fellow Gerlinde Schaeffter contributed to this post.