The United Kingdom government has announced a package of funding and support for UK Overseas Territories. The new projects will see a scheme to reduce and monitor plastic pollution on the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic and a new data collecting and reporting system for Montserrat to help create long-term sustainable fisheries.
At the same time, the Darwin Plus scheme opens for the latest round of applications to fund conservation and environmental projects in UK Overseas Territories. Darwin Plus will deliver on flagship commitments set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan in UK Overseas Territories around the globe.
The new scheme on St Helena will aim to reduce the amount of plastic used by those living on the island and will establish a recycling program for waste plastic. As part of this project, a marine debris monitoring program will be established along St Helena’s coastline to better understand this issue. Local school children and communities will be engaged in the project through an educational outreach program
UK Environment Secretary, Michael Gove said: “We must protect our oceans and marine life from plastic waste if we are to be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.
“Protecting and enhancing biodiversity in the UK’s Overseas Territories will help to make crucial activities such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry and tourism more sustainable.”
The St Helena island has a huge array of fish and marine life along with coral ecosystems. Plastic pollution in the South Atlantic Ocean could threaten these species and their habitats. Amongst a wide range of migratory birds that make the island their home, the St Helena Plover is the symbol of the Island and also known locally as the Wirebird.
During June, the St Helena National Trust Marine Team and the St Helena Government Marine Section and four Prince Andrew School students walked to Sharks Valley on the island for a beach clean-up. More than 1,000 plastic bottles, 1,540 pieces of polystyrene, 50 fishing buoys/floats and 124 flip–flops and shoes were collected by the volunteers.
St Helena Government’s Director of Environment & Natural Resources, Derek Henry, said the project provides ”a fantastic opportunity for St Helena to become involved in reducing the amount of plastic that enters our marine ecosystem. It will involve the whole community and will educate and set up the processes for monitoring and reducing plastic waste to create a better marine environment around our Island.”
Further support through the Overseas Territories Environment and Climate Fund (also known as Darwin Plus) provides funding for: Environmental projects in UK Overseas Territories; Fellowships for UK Overseas Territories (OT) Nationals to train in the UK.
Since the start of 2018, the Darwin Plus funding has been awarded to 13 projects in South Georgia, Tristan da Cunha, Falkland Islands, Montserrat and other UK Overseas Territories.
The fund is administered by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for International Development (DFID) and uses the UK Government’s Official Development Assistance.
Professor Stephen Blackmore, Chair of the Darwin Plus Advisory Group said: “The range of the projects funded by Darwin Plus in the UK’s Overseas Territories shows how we can effect change and better support and protect biodiversity around the globe.
“I am proud that we are delivering Darwin Plus funding to benefit animal and plant species and their habitats, which are vital to humanity's economic and social development.”
A full list of projects currently being supported by Darwin Plus is available on the Darwin Initiative website.