Tristan da Cunha has set up a 265,000 sq mile (687,000 sq km) protection zone – an area almost three times the size of the UK. The “no-take” haven bans fishing and other harmful activities, to preserve wildlife around the chain of islands such as seals, albatrosses, penguins, whales, sharks and dolphins.
It will make the people of Tristan da Cunha guardians of the largest such zone in the Atlantic and the world’s fourth biggest protected marine area.
It joins the UK’s “blue belt” around overseas territories, with the Government using satellites to ensure rules are obeyed.
The reserve, backed by an alliance of trusts and government, will protect tens of millions of seabirds and mammals.
Sustainable fishing by islanders will keep going in a tenth of the zone.
Chief Islander James Glass said locals back the move: “We’re proud that we can play a key role in preserving the health of the oceans.”
Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB which works with the islands’ regime, said the reserve will be “the jewel in the crown of UK marine protection”.
She added: “Penguins and seals cram on to the beaches, threatened sharks breed offshore, and mysterious whales feed in the deep-water canyons.”
Environment minister Lord Goldsmith called the zone “a critically important step in protecting the world’s biodiversity”.