When protected, the new no-take zone around Ascension Island would bring the total percentage of MPAs in the UK’s territorial waters, Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to over 50%.

This comes as Environment Secretary Michael Gove has reiterated his call for 30% of the world’s ocean to be protected by 2030 and called on other nations to follow the UK’s lead.

With a marine estate stretching across the globe, the UK is uniquely positioned to lead the way in protecting the world’s oceans and precious marine life. This progress towards fully protecting all of Ascension Island’s waters is an important step forward in expanding our Blue Belt and protecting a third of the world’s ocean by 2030. I hope countries around the world will follow suit,

....said Environment Secretary Michael Gove responding to the announcement.

The announcement comes just six months after the UK Government called for more than a third of the world’s ocean to be protected by 2030, trebling internationally-agreed targets for protected areas. As is the case now, MPAs will consist of a range of management measures.

Currently, global targets for marine protected areas are set by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, with parties agreeing to protect 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020.

Ascension Island, one of the UK’s Overseas Territories, is of significant biodiversity value, home to some of the largest marlin in the world and one of the largest populations of green turtles.

The move represents significant progress towards the government’s Blue Belt programme, an initiative to provide long term protection of more than four million square kilometres of marine environment across the UK Overseas Territories.

Additionally, it aligns with measures taken by UK government in the past to protect the marine environment – with over 200,000 square miles of Britain’s coastline already protected, proposals recently launched for 41 new Marine Conservation Zones, and the creation of the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance which the UK co-chairs with Vanuatu.

The Government will publish an international ocean strategy this year setting out further action to conserve and sustainably use the ocean.