Blue Belt Programme: Spring Newsletter

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Blue Belt Spring Newsletter

The Blue Belt Programme supports the delivery of the UK government’s commitment to enhance marine protection of over four million square kilometres of marine environment across UK Overseas Territories. The programme is a partnership between two world-leading agencies of the UK government, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and seven UK Overseas Territories. 

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Blue Belt Programme: Spring Newsletter

Pulling back the 'blue curtain' in the UK Overseas Territories

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A Baited Remote Underwater Video System (BRUVS) being deployed

The ocean wildlife and diverse ecosystems within the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) across the Blue Belt programme and beyond will soon be more visible than ever, thanks to pioneering work to establish a major network of underwater cameras.

The new Global Ocean Wildlife Analysis Network – funded as part of the Blue Belt programme – is a world first. Made up of 66 non-intrusive cameras, the network will provide information on ocean biodiversity and ecosystems found in the vast maritime and coastal areas of UKOTs in the Atlantic, Pacific and Southern Oceans.  

From the data provided, UKOTs and scientist will gain for the first time a new level of scientific understanding of the marine species and habitat distribution within their maritime area. This ‘state of the art’ information will provide real time data for understanding the state, generate protection and management of these diverse ecosystems.

Read our blog to for further information on the new cameras, what they've found so far and how it will help protect marine environments. 

Marine Awareness Week in St Helena

Since 2003, the St. Helena Government has hosted an annual Marine Awareness Week (MAW), dedicated to celebrating the marine environment.  The event showcases science related work, promotes conservation and proactive management.

This year, MAW was held from the 15th to 20th March, with a main focus on the Blue Belt programme work that has supported St. Helena. The theme was “Blue Belt – Tomorrow’s Ocean today”.

The week showcased the magnitude of the programme and its importance to international and national goals, as well as ensuring every visitor left feeling that they are a steward of our ocean. 

The venue overlooked the harbour and included a range of visual displays. The public were encouraged to visit at any time, and the MAW team also tailored tours for specific groups such as school children.

Blue Belt education pack

Almost every school child on the island participated at the event. The Blue Belt team supported by creating activity booklets for Early years, KS1 and KS2 students, aligned with the national curriculum on education. 

A variety of organised events, exhibitions and initiatives were designed to inform a wide range of audiences. In the evenings there were presentations, quizzes, movies and games to generate interest. We’re thrilled that around 1000 people participated across the week.

Article by Liz Clingham, St. Helena Blue Belt Manager

Using drones to tackle illegal fishing

Drone trials

A drone being trialled across British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT)

The Blue Belt programme is committed to using innovative technologies to assist UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) tackle Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. This has been highlighted in our new report on drone trials carried out in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).

With vast marine areas and often limited resource, UKOTs are often challenged in being able to deliver an effective compliance and enforcement response to the threat of illegal fishing.

Drones are the most advanced technology available to support the UKOTs, as they can gather direct evidence of IUU fishing. While it’s unlikely that there will be one solution to IUU, including drones in a ‘toolkit’ of approaches will help UKOTs protect their marine environments. 

Valuable lessons were learned during the trial, with steps taken to address identified limitations such as length of flight and waterproofing. However, the trial was not without some challenges. These included changes to UAV flight permissions, flight delays and those encountered by the outbreak of Covid-19.

Read the full report here

Assessing the impact of climate change on coral reefs

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A coral reef in British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT)

The Pitcairn Islands and British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) are home to some of the most biologically diverse coral reefs on earth. Yet due to climate change, these reefs are increasingly vulnerable to changing environmental conditions.

As part of the Blue Belt programme, our targeted work is to provide the UK Overseas Territories with the latest science and evidence to support them in the management and protection of their marine environments.

Blue Belt’s new review of recent scientific literature has assessed the observed and future impact of climate change on Pitcairn and BIOT’s coral reefs.

At present, reducing future global carbon emissions is the only feasible pathway to controlling climate change and therefore effectively limit the risk to the global reefs.

However, through protection and evidence-based management, it is possible to minimise the risks and enhance the likelihood of these reefs persisting into the future.

Read the full report here

New compliance and enforcement training videos

Patrol ship

Patrol ship within British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT)

The Blue Belt team has created a series of training videos – based on an illegal fishing scenario – to assist UKOT staff with their compliance and enforcement work.

Assisting the UKOTs to deliver their compliance and enforcement responsibilities is a key part of the work of the Blue Belt Programme. The ability to ensure that MPAs are protected from manmade and other risks is essential to their effectiveness and success.

The story, which is spread across 5 short films, starts with the sighting of a vessel in British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) waters which is suspected of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. It’s told both from the perspective of the sighting of the vessel from the patrol ship, and from the patrol officer who boards the illegal vessel and receives intelligence from an ‘insider’ to indicate that something unlawful is happening. 

The project was led by Blue Belt Compliance and Enforcement Manager, Dan Ward, and grateful thanks must go to BIOTA, Rhys Diplock, James Meason-Ward, the crew of the Grampian Frontier and film production company Three Wise Monkeys.

Roundtable on Protected Area Management Effectiveness

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All UK Overseas Territories within the Blue Belt Programme have now reached the milestone of creating a Marine Protected Area (MPA) designation, and in some cases, their operational or near-operational management plans. This is now a crucial stage to understand what is the best strategy for an effective  MPA management.

On 16th March, international experts, UKOT staff and partner organisations came together to discuss how and why MPA management effectiveness is assessed, and what opportunities and challenges exist for UKOTs.

While there is no single method for assessing protected area management effectiveness (PAME), common principles were shared that can be adapted to local situations and available capacity. A common thread throughout the discussion was to keep PAME evaluations simple and relevant. Selecting priority indicators only and presenting results simply and visually, can help managers and decision makers understand management actions and allocate resources effectively.

A take-home message was that it isn’t just about the results, but the process of conducting the assessment brings stakeholders together and promotes mutual understanding. After fruitful discussion the roundtable closed with positivity, and the value of continued sharing and learning between UKOTs and globally was clear.

We would like to thank the UKOTs and partners for contributing their views and experiences, and express our gratitude to Sue Wells, Jon Day, Allen Vosrie Cedras and Tadzio Bervoets for sharing their expertise and learning with all involved.

Welcoming new members to the Blue Belt team

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