British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is expected to institute a ban on fishing, drilling and freight transport in British overseas territories in the South Atlantic in an effort to protect wildlife in the area. The South Sandwich Islands, which plays host to Antarctic scientists but has no permanent residents, lie around 1,500km east of the Falkland Islands.
Campaigners have called for 500,000 sq km sanctuary around the islands to protect the penguins, fur seals and whales which proliferate in the area.
The Foreign Secretary was scheduled to meet to activists, and to go on to propose a version of the exclusion zone which would ban “any mining activity for minerals or hydrocarbons” – along with refusing access to any vessels using heavy fuel.
Bans on fishing in certain areas will also be expanded, the Times reported. South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are home to more than 3 million penguins, along with fur seals, elephant seals and various species of whale.
Awareness of marine conservation was raised in the UK by the latest nature series by Sir David Attenborough, Blue Planet II, which carried warnings about the need to protect the sea from the effects of human intervention alongside its breath-taking footage.
However, the islands are already part of a million-sq km protected area, and Johnson’s proposal would simply widen the “no take zone” near the islands themselves.
“If this is the limit of the government’s ambition, then we are all going to be very disappointed,” said Willie Mackenzie, a Greenpeace campaigner.
Johnson joins Government colleagues such as Environment Secretary Michael Gove – who promised a “green Brexit” – and even Prime Minister Theresa May, who has been talking tough on plastic, in a push to rebrand the Conservatives as sensitive to green concerns.
Under David Cameron, the party attempted to establish green credentials, going as far as to change the party’s logo to a tree. However, under Theresa May, an association with fox-hunting and an image of heartlessness when it comes to animals was thought to be damaging the party, according to an internal review.