A UK marine preservation initiative protecting key species has been extended with an additional £7m (€7.72m) in funding.
The Blue Belt scheme, implemented in 2016 as part of the government’s long term commitment to protect marine habitats in British waters, enables the designation of Marine Protected Areas off the coasts of the UK and UK Overseas Territories. Since the initiative began in 2016, it has established Marine Protected Areas covering more than half of British waters; this figure is set to rise to around two thirds by 2020. The UK marine preservation programme focuses primarily on the Overseas Territories of British Indian Ocean Territory; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; British Antarctic Territory; Pitcairn; St Helena; Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha. Collectively the Territories hold 85% of the critically endangered species for which the UK is officially responsible, including turtles, fish, seabirds and marine mammals such as whales and porpoises.
Charles Clover, Executive Director at the Blue Marine Foundation, said: “These Blue Belt sites are like the rainforests of the ocean, where rare sharks, turtles, corals and large fish are still abundant. We are therefore delighted to hear that, in addition to fully implementing and continuing to fund the Blue Belt commitments made in 2016, the prime minister has committed to offering this world leading programme to the other UK Overseas Territories.”
Jonathan Hall, Head of UK Overseas Territories at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said: “We’re delighted that new funding will be made available to complete the world leading Blue Belt programme and offer it to other Territories which wish to participate. This can mean more much-needed protection for rare turtles and globally important seabirds, fragile coral reefs and mysterious deep sea habitats; and will benefit the many Territory communities which depend so heavily on a healthy marine environment.”