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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Continuing work towards Pitcairn’s marine reserve

Many members will recall the presentation at our AGM in 2012 from Elisabeth Whitebread of the Pew Charitable Trusts, who are working with the National Geographic Society and the Pitcairn Island Council on the creation of the world’s largest marine reserve in Pitcairn’s waters. The Pitcairn community voted unanimously in favour of the marine reserve in September 2012, but in order for the reserve to go ahead the Governor and the UK Foreign Office have to give the go ahead.

In January this year the British government were sent the joint formal proposal, and they have since come back with some questions about enforcement, tourism and science. These have now been answered in four detailed reports – all peer reviewed by experts – that were sent to the Governor and the Foreign Office in June.

In May Elisabeth was back on Pitcairn (her third trip to the island!) with colleague Heather Bradner. They visited each household to discuss the reports with them, and answer any questions people had about the reserve and the government’s decision-making process. This time they were also on island with Blue Ventures (, an award-winning UK-based ecotourism organisation that is interested in partnering with Pitcairn on voluntourism opportunities.

Studies show that because Pitcairn’s waters lie in an area of the Pacific that is low in nutrients, they lack the conditions necessary to support commercially significant fish stocks.  Therefore large-scale commercial fishing is not economically viable and would not be sustainable (although the marine reserve would of course allow for continued fishing by Pitcairners around the island).

However, as last year’s National Geographic and Pew expedition uncovered, Pitcairn’s waters are the clearest ever recorded, and harbour the deepest tropical coral reef known to man. If managed properly, Pitcairn’s marine environment could unlock the key to an environmentally and economically sustainable future for Pitcairn, and offer a beacon of hope for the world’s threatened seas.

If you’d like more information about the marine reserve proposal, please email Elisabeth Whitebread on or visit or