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UK Government Creates World's Largest Marine Reserve Around Pitcairn Islands

20 March 2015

UK - The Pew Charitable Trusts and the National Geographic Society have praised action by the British government to create the world's largest fully protected marine reserve around the Pitcairn Islands, an overseas territory in the South Pacific Ocean.

The 834,334-square-kilometre (322,138-square-mile) reserve is roughly three and a half times the size of the United Kingdom. Home to at least 1,249 species of marine mammals, seabirds and fish, the new reserve protects some of the most near-pristine ocean habitat on Earth.

In 2013, Pew and National Geographic joined the local elected body, the Pitcairn Island Council, in submitting a proposal calling for the creation of a marine reserve to protect these spectacular waters.

"With this designation, the United Kingdom raises the bar for protection of our ocean and sets a new standard for others to follow," said Matt Rand, director of Global Ocean Legacy, a project of Pew and its partners that advocates for the establishment of the world's great marine parks.

"The United Kingdom is the caretaker of more than 6 million square kilometres of ocean — the fifth-largest marine area of any country. Through this designation, British citizens are playing a vital role in ensuring the health of our seas. The Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve will build a refuge of untouched ocean to protect and conserve a wealth of marine life."

"The action by British Prime Minister David Cameron will protect the true bounty of the Pitcairn Islands — the array of unique marine life in the surrounding pristine seas," said National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala, head of the Society's Pristine Seas project.

"Our scientific exploration of the area revealed entirely new species as well as an abundance of top predators like sharks. It was like traveling to a new world full of hidden and unknown treasures, a world that will now be preserved for generations to come."

"The people of Pitcairn are extremely excited about designation of the world's largest marine reserve in our vast and unspoiled waters of the Pitcairn Islands, including Ducie, Oeno, and Henderson Islands," said the Pitcairn Island Council. "We are proud to have developed and led this effort in partnership with Pew and National Geographic to protect these spectacular waters we call home for generations to come."

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