HMS Protector Visits St Helena to Help Safeguard the Island’s Marine Environment
Submitted by J Brock (FINN)
Royal Navy ship HMS Protector is visiting St Helena to help safeguard the Island’s marine environment, undertaking monitoring to combat potential Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and conduct Hydrographic Surveys. Her arrival has been welcomed by the people and Government of St Helena.
During HMS Protector’s presence in the Island’s waters, the Royal Navy and the Blue Belt Programme are collaborating to support St. Helena by carrying out surveillance patrols of the islands seamounts.
Compliance and enforcement is critical to tackling unlawful activity such as IUU fishing and ultimately in ensuring effective marine management. St. Helena Government has a newly formed Marine Enforcement Section, and has also adopted a comprehensive Compliance and Enforcement Strategy. This Strategy was created with assistance from the Blue Belt Programme and addresses the needs of the Island’s by ensuring surveillance and sets out subsequent appropriate action, if deemed necessary.
The Blue Belt Programme supports UK Overseas Territories with the protection and sustainable management of their marine environments, and is the largest marine conservation programme of its kind in the world, covering over 4 million square kilometres of ocean. The Blue Belt Programme is central to the UK Government’s ambition of leading global action against illegal fishing, climate change and biodiversity loss. It is driven by United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals and the Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as underpinning the 25 Year Environment Plan and global ambition for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030.
St. Helena aspires to be an exemplar in the management of its Category VI, Marine Protected Area (MPA). The Blue Belt programme has facilitated a number of tools and initiatives to support St. Helena, including establishing the Blue Belt Intelligence and Surveillance Hub via the Marine Management Organisation (MMO). This hub undertakes targeted satellite surveillance data to monitor the waters of all Blue Belt Overseas Territories to detect unlawful activity.
HMS Protector will also be conducting hydrographic surveys in conjunction with the Overseas Territories Seabed Mapping Programme, which is led by the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO). The Seabed Mapping Programme aims to meet international obligations, improve the safety of navigation and protect the environment through the understanding, management and protection of the marine environment.
The intended surveying is an extension of that carried out by the UKHO between 2018 and 2019 and made possible through the direct liaising between the UKHO and the MOD.
The surveys will provide seabed mapping data that is then used to update navigational charts in the waters and publications around St Helena and in turn contribute to overall Safety of Navigation. The data collected will also be provided to the St Helena Government and UK stakeholders to ensure its widest possible use to support the Blue Economy of St Helena.
HMS Protector’s arrival signals the UK’s enduring commitment to safeguarding the South Atlantic Territories, where she joins the new Patrol Ship HMS Forth. HMS Protector is also conducting a variety of operations in the waters of St Helena’s sister island Ascension, including helping to ensure no IUU activity is occurring in the 445,000km2 highly protected Ascension MPA, and undertaking hydrographic surveying. HMS Protector will then begin surveillance and enforcement activity around Antarctica as part of the UK’s commitment to the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMRL), part of the Antarctic Treaty System.
These work streams and collaboration is greatly appreciated by St. Helena and Ascension, particularly as the Island’s do not have this specific capacity within local resources.
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10 September 2021