Pitcairn Islanders to embark on key scientific survey

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Welcome to the Blue Belt Programme summer newsletter.

It's been a busy period across the Programme, with landmark fisheries legislation being passed in St. Helena, new training modules published for the Overseas Territories and the first underwater cameras making a splash in Montserrat as part of the Global Ocean Wildlife Analysis Network. Find all of these stories and more below!

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Blue Belt Programme Summer 2021 Newsletter

Pitcairn Islanders to embark on key scientific survey

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MV Silver Supporter on the previous expedition to Henderson Island, 2019. Photo: Luke Hosty

On 1 September 2021, the Pitcairn Island community will lead a scientific survey to their remote outer islands, carrying out crucial research and monitoring work on their marine environment. 12 Pitcairn Islanders will be on board the MV Silver Supporter as it travels to the outer islands of Henderson, Oeno and Ducie. 

A range of scientific and environmental survey work will be undertaken, including the collection of data on fish prevalence (inshore and mid-water), cetacean sightings, water quality, and more. The vessel will also support compliance and enforcement work being undertaken around Pitcairn.

The data collected will help to inform the management and protection of Pitcairn’s Marine Protected Area, including against key ocean threats such as climate change and illegal fishing.

Specifically, the expedition will investigate the potential impact of climate change on Pitcairn’s pristine coral reefs. The data collected will allow scientists to assess the resilience of Pitcairn’s biologically significant corals to a changing climate. This was an activity recommended by the recent Pitcairn Climate Change Impacts on Corals Report Card.

The expedition is due to last for one month and is being funded by the Blue Belt Programme. The Programme has provided a range of equipment and advice for the survey, and it will also support in data analysis once collected.

Catching up with the Ascension Island MPA Youth Committee

Ascension Island youth committee fieldwork

The success of the Ascension Island Marine Protected Area (MPA) relies on input from the whole community, including the youth of Ascension Island. The MPA Youth Committee was set up in March 2021 in collaboration with Two Boats School, for young people with a passion for marine science and a willingness to participate in research.

The first order of business from the Youth Committee was to design a logo to represent the group. The team mascot is a Porcupinefish aptly name “Bubbles”. From time to time, you might see the logo pop up on the MPA social media pages when the Youth Committee showcase their great work.  

Ascension Island youth committee lab work

The MPA Youth Committee has been involved in a host of activities including writing a letter to Sir David Attenborough, raising awareness of World Ocean Day, cleaning the local beaches and designing fishing line recycle tubes for popular fishing spots.

They also started an oyster monitoring project to assess the threat of ocean acidification and have assisted in plankton research to understand seasonal changes in productivity.  Their ongoing commitment to the marine environment will be crucial to the long term health of the Ascension Island MPA.

Liana Brogdon Sim, 12, Member of the MPA Youth Committee: "If people don’t get their act together and help, the ocean could be facing a much worse life that we didn’t see coming.  An ocean needs life, it gives life and it wouldn’t be an ocean without life.  I feel very proud of myself to be a part of the MPA because I am doing something good, not for myself, but for the island."

Article by Tiffany Simpson, Ascension Island Marine Team

Landmark new fishing legislation passed in St. Helena

St. Helena identified in its Marine Management Plan in 2016 that it was necessary to reform its Fisheries Limits Ordinance (1977), to improve the regulation of fishing and related activities within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).  The Fisheries Ordinance needed to support and promote responsible management of its valuable marine resources to preserve them for future generations.

The Blue Belt Programme facilitated and enabled dedicated resources to support St. Helena achieve this aspiration. Reform of the Ordinance first needed to be unpinned by robust policy and so a Fisheries Management Policy and a Fishing Licensing Policy was developed.

On 30 July 2021, the new Fisheries Bill was passed by Legislative Council.  This has been a key milestone for both St. Helena and the support provided by the Blue Belt Programme.

St. Helena's new legislation only allows the use of one-by-one tuna fishing methods in its waters, it bans all destructive fishing gear and strengthens monitoring, surveillance and enforcement activities to prevent illegal fishing. It establishes best-practice for the traceability of fish catch and strengthens data recording systems.

St. Helena hopes to grow its economy and future market opportunities on the narrative of responsible and sustainable fishing that this reformed Fisheries Ordinance will help to underpin.  Consumers demanding transparency and a desire to only purchase ethically and responsibly sourced seafood need look no further.

Article by Elizabeth Clingham, St. Helena Government

New Training Programme available for UK Overseas Territories 

UK Overseas Territories (UKOT) now have access to a new comprehensive training package to assist them in protecting and managing their marine protected areas. 

The Blue Belt team has worked with Virtual College to create bespoke training modules currently only available to the UKOTs within the Blue Belt Programme, however the subject areas are suitable for countries worldwide. 

They include: 

  • Five eLearning modules with associated games providing a high-level overview of: Marine Protected Area (MPA) Management, Marine Biosecurity, Surveillance Tools & Technology, Enforcement Processes and Compliance & Enforcement in the UKOTs
  • Seven comprehensive training units, which are further broken down into subject-specific modules that cover everything in the eLearning modules, but in much more detail.

The training modules are accessible through the Marine Management Organisation’s Learning Management System and are both educational and engaging to complete.

The training package was created for the Programme by Virtual College, with support from the Marine Management Organisation’s training team, along with key partners on specific modules. These include production company Three Wise Monkeys, the British Indian Ocean Territory Administration, and the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat. 

Training materials_Lord Goldsmith quote

Watch first underwater cameras make a splash in Montserrat

In April, we announced the launch of the Global Ocean Wildlife Analysis Network, a new underwater camera network spanning ten UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs), which will help inform marine management and protective measures.

Since April, the Blue Belt team and partners Blue Abacus have been busy preparing and sending the necessary kit to each of the UKOTs. The first set of cameras arrived in the Caribbean Territories in the early Summer, and training has begun on how to assemble and deploy them.

Excitingly, the team in Montserrat was able to successfully deploy their cameras in early August. A range of marine life was captured in the first round of footage across different seafloor habitats around Montserrat. Watch clips of the footage here.

Further kit is currently on its way to other UKOTs, with South Atlantic territories due to receive their cameras in the Autumn. In the British Antarctic Territory, cameras will arrive in early 2022 and will be deployed to coincide with the melting of the winter ice flow.

Hear from some of the UKOTs participating in the network with our blogs: Anguila, St Helena, British Antarctic Territory.

Montserrat BRUVS

Underwater camera on the Montserrat seabed

Working towards a blue future: new research topic

Working towards a blue future

Undertaken as part of the Blue Belt Programme with key partners and contributors, the new research topic Working Towards a Blue Future is soon due to publish and approve its final papers.

Over 20 papers will make up the final research topic, which brings together scientific evidence, management and economic studies that have informed policy and management decisions made by UK Overseas Territories. These papers help form the evidence base that the Territories can use to effectively enhance and protect their marine environments.

The papers that are included focus on a range of themes that align with the work of the Blue Belt and Overseas Territories partners it supports.

Specific paper topics cover a wide range of topics, from Cetacean sightings and data collected during research cruises in the South Atlantic, to the impact of climate change on commercially important fisheries, to the trends in non-compliance seen across large-scale and remote marine protected areas.

Looking ahead to Autumn... 

Look out for more news from the Blue Belt Programme over the Autumn as we approach several key milestones, including the publication of new Marine Management Plans, the conclusion of the Pitcairn science survey, and the landmark COP26 summit in November.

Keep up-to-date via our newsletter and social media channels.

About the Blue Belt Programme

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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