By Matthew Offord MP for Hendon - UK leadership on ocean conservation has won international acclaim. The landmark Blue Belt policy to work with the UK Overseas Territories to “create the largest marine sanctuaries anywhere in the world” has only furthered this standing, with commitments to create large protected areas around Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha in 2019 and 2020 respectively already widely welcomed.
When the Brexit referendum result was announced last June, I was working on the Turks and Caicos Islands, one of the UK’s overseas territories in the Caribbean. A collection of about 40 tropical islands, of which eight are inhabited, people there were shocked at the result. They were annoyed they hadn’t had a chance to vote, and concerned about their future.
The British Overseas Territory, BOT, St Helena Government and Airlink have announced that the sale of tickets for flights to St Helena Island will commence early in September 2017.Airlink will operate a weekly service between St Helena and Johannesburg and St Helena and Cape Town (via the stopover at Windhoek International Airport in Namibia).
The Journal of Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom (*) has this month released a special issue focussing on Ascension Island’s marine biodiversity. Falklands' based SAERI Director Dr Paul Brickle explained that 20 papers reported on the results of 202 sampling events, comprising a mixture of quantitative SCUBA surveys involving belt transects for fish and mobile fauna and quadrat photography for sessile fauna.
Ascension Island, home to around 800 people, is even more cut off than it used to be after weekly flights linking the island to the UK were stopped - due to a dodgy runway and the wrong kind of RAF aircraft, according to a BBC report. The British overseas territory is the tip of an old volcano in the Atlantic Ocean, mid-way between Africa and Brazil. It's so remote, that when the Portuguese discovered it on Ascension Day in 1501, they didn't even bother colonizing it.
The United Kingdom MoD (Ministry of Defense) announced on Thursday that plans were in place to trial the Falkland Islands Airbridge flight via Sal, Cape Verde, on a temporary basis which would result in a shorter overall flight time and improved passenger experience.
Two British scientific research vessels coincided in Montevideo in early May at the end of the Antarctic season, in their way back to Southampton. Icebreaker RRS Shackleton and RRS James Clark Ross with sophisticated scientific research equipment and tens of experts in different disciplines spent months in Antarctica and returned to Montevideo, a traditional call port the British Antarctic Survey, BAS.
The Falkland Islands government has made further announcements regarding the South Atlantic Airbridge, which has been rerouted because of the temporary closure of Ascension Island runway, but now seems to be back in track to normalizing via alternative airports in West Africa. Ascenson island, in mid Atlantic, is a crucial call point for the long airbridge to the Falklands.
It's going to be a busny winter for the Falkland Islands. The government has announced that due to repairs required to the Ascension Island runway, the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) is temporarily rerouting the South Atlantic Airbridge via an alternative location. The UK air bridge from Brize Norton to the Falklands normally calls at Ascension Island both ways.
Speaking ahead of “Our Ocean” conference in Washington DC, Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan announced plans to double the area of ocean under marine protection around the UK Overseas Territories to around four million square kilometers, greater than the landmass of India.