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Marine Life & Conservation

St Helena Recognised as an International marine Hope Spot

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International marine conservation organisation Mission Blue officially recognised St Helena’s Marine Protected Area as a Hope Spot. Hope Spots are recognised as special places, being one of a kind areas of ocean that are scientifically identified for their uniqueness, and most importantly their community’s contribution and efforts in maintaining or improving global ocean health.

St Helena was nominated as a Hope Spot by two champions, the Director of the St Helena National Trust Helena Bennett and Director of Global Policy at Georgia Aquarium Dr Dayne Buddo. This nomination was supported by St Helena Government.

St Helena is honoured that Mission Blue has assessed St Helena’s efforts to safeguard our ocean and recognised us as a Hope Spot.

It also means that St Helena joins an ocean network of 156 Hope Spots around the world. These cover a combined near 60,000,000km2 of ocean, stretching from the Antarctica to the Arctic, and includes our sister island of Ascension.

This recognition follows a significant 20 year journey for St Helena in understanding and protecting the Island’s marine environment. It began with projects initially assessing whales, dolphins and birds, as well as undertaking basic fisheries science to build a baseline of knowledge and understanding. In 2012 St Helena Government started to consider a potential Marine Protected Area (MPA) designation. Between 2012 and 2016 various scientific programs were undertaken in collaboration with Island users and stakeholders, considering the social impacts of designation.

This ultimately led to 100% of St Helena’s near 450,000km2 Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) being designated as an IUCN Category VI sustainable use MPA in 2016, along with the publication of the Island’s first Marine Management Plan.

By comparison, only 8% of the world’s oceans are currently designated as MPAs, with under 3% being highly protected. This is set amid a backdrop where are our oceans have never been more at threat, from challenges including the impacts of climate change, ocean acidification, pollution and illegal fishing.

Following designation of the MPA, significant work has been ongoing to improve the understanding of the territory’s marine environment. This has been made possible by working closely with a variety of external partners and funders, such as the UK Government Darwin Initiative, the Blue Marine Foundation, the International Pole and Line Foundation and Georgia Aquarium.

The Papanui wreck of St Helena

Since 2016, St Helena has been fortunate to be a part of the UK Government’s Blue Belt Programme, which supports the Overseas Territories with the protection and sustainable management of their marine estates. The programme has provided significant funding and capacity to St Helena. This has catapulted St Helena’s science and research, in turn providing the evidence that underpins the MPAs management measures and the newly implemented 2023 Marine Management Plan.

In 2018, the St Helena National Trust with support from the Blue Marine Foundation, extended its advocacy of the Island’s natural heritage to include marine based conservation, education and outreach. The trust continues conservation monitoring of key marine species such as whale sharks and seabirds, promoting sustainable fisheries and the reduction of plastics and marine debris, contributing further evidence to underpin the Marine Management Plan.

This work, combined with St Helena’s distinctive features, has now been assessed by a reputable internationally recognised organisation who are to call St Helena a Hope Spot.

Many MPAs are designated in an effort to restore that area to a functional and thriving condition as a result of previous damage. St Helena’s marine environment remains in near pristine condition, and the community of St Helena is rightly proud to keep watch over an area that provides inspiration to others.

St Helena’s unique characteristics, most notably its remoteness and historic limited human pressures, has not only created unique habitats but also distinct assemblages of species. St Helena’s MPA attracts highly migratory and globally significant animals such as tuna, whale sharks and humpback whales.

St Helena has undertaken every reasonable effort within its control to ensure marine uses limit human pressure in order to deliver sustainability, even as marine tourism becomes more popular in reflection of St Helena’s amazing natural environment. For example:

  • One by one fishing practices are permitted for certain key species, and unselective fishing methods are prohibited.
  • Total allowable catch limits and size limits are in place.
  • Robust wildlife and habitat interaction rules have been put in place, balancing the education and enjoyment of marine users against the need to safeguard our habitats and species for the future.

Dr Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue, said:

This marine protected area and new hope spot of nearly half a million square miles now faces pressures largely outside its control from rapidly changing climate, invasive species and pollution. By becoming a Hope Spot, St Helena can act as a beacon to the rest of the world. Although geographically isolated, it is deeply ecologically connected to many distant realms, and indeed, other Hope Spots.”

Director of St Helena National Trust, Helena Bennett, said:

The ocean has a way of enchanting us, capturing our imagination and intriguing us with mysteries of the unexplored. Our Island and its surrounding waters are steeped in our culture and traditions, and have played a massive role in our history’s timeline since our island’s discovery in 1502, evolving our way with a sense of nostalgia and a feeling of belonging and home.”

UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Minister David Rutley said:

St Helena is home to a range of unique marine species and habitats creating breath-taking coastal and underwater sceneries. I’m proud to see St Helena’s MPA designated as a ‘hope spot’, this speaks to the fantastic working collaborations St Helena has with its local community, Government and NGOs in creating ocean conservation consciousness through sustainable use.”

The UK’s landmark Blue Belt Programme has also enabled positive lasting change for the island, through its facilitation of a range of support covering innovative science initiatives such as, the deployment of a network of underwater cameras to help observe and quantify ocean wildlife, a purpose-built marine laboratory to ensure evidence-based management of habitats and species is undertaken supported by a robust policy, legislation, education and enforcement. An exemplar of creating positive change for the protection of the marine environment for the rest of the world”.

Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Planning, Christine Scipio, said:

As a community we are rightly proud of our unique marine environment, which is reflected in how we approach our stewardship of it. We’ve spent the last 20 years developing our knowledge of our special waters and ensuring we only permit the most sustainable of practices within our MPA. We’re delighted that Mission Blue has recognised St Helena as a Hope Spot, and hope that we can act as an example to the rest of the world of what can be achieved despite your size and limited resources.”

Graham Sim, former Fisheries Officer and long term advocate for St Helena’s marine environment, said:

The thing about it is, and I don’t know why, there is something about the ocean that I have always been attracted to. St Helena is in a unique position and has come a long way with the conservation and protection of the marine environment, with the local younger generations being much more aware of the need to protect the ocean, giving us all hope for the future. But, there is a lot that still needs to be done here, and elsewhere, and we need to keep focused on what is required to protect our beloved oceans.”

More information about the Hope Spot network can be found online at www.missionblue.org/hope-spots.

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

Marine Life & Conservation

Dive with a Purpose: Shark Guardian’s Expedition Galapagos

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Shark Guardian has just unveiled their largest and most exciting expedition yet: a seven-night, eight-day adventure in August 2026 aboard the Galaxy Diver II, a state-of-the-art
vessel specifically designed for divers exploring the enchanting waters of the Galapagos
Islands. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to engage deeply with marine
conservation in one of the world’s most revered diving destinations.

Shark Guardian is a UK registered charity dedicated to protecting sharks and marine
ecosystems worldwide. Founded by marine biologists and conservationists, Brendon
Sing and Liz Ward-Sing, Shark Guardian leads educational programs, research projects,
campaigns and expeditions aimed at fostering a better understanding and respect for
marine life. Their work spans several continents and focuses on direct action,
education, and advocacy.

Shark Guardian’s ethos revolves around the concept of “diving with a purpose.” This
philosophy underscores the importance of not just experiencing the wonders of the
underwater world but actively learning and contributing to its preservation. Participants
in Shark Guardian expeditions engage in citizen science projects, which involve
collecting data that supports ongoing research and conservation efforts. These
activities empower divers to make a tangible difference, turning each dive into an act of
conservation.

One of the newer additions to the Galapagos diving scene, the Galaxy Diver II, is
specifically tailored for divers. Its design prioritises comfort, safety, and environmental
responsibility. The vessel boasts modern amenities, spacious dive decks, and the latest
navigational technology, ensuring that every dive is not only memorable but also has
minimal environmental impact.

A highlight of this expedition is the opportunity to dive at Wolf and Darwin islands,
renowned for their vibrant, untouched marine ecosystems and as a haven for large
pelagic species. These islands are famous for their schools of hammerhead sharks,
whale sharks, and manta rays, offering spectacular diving that attracts enthusiasts from
around the globe.

Shark Guardian have developed this trip to ensure a hassle-free experience. The
expedition package also includes internal flights from Quito, Ecuador, to the Galapagos,
plus accommodation in Quito before and after the trip. This allows divers to relax and
enjoy the experience without worrying about logistics.

Participants will join a diverse group of passionate divers and conservationists. This trip
offers a unique opportunity to network with like-minded individuals who are eager to
learn about and contribute to marine conservation. It’s a chance to share experiences,
knowledge, and a commitment to protecting the marine world.

sharks

Shark Guardian is offering an early bird price available until May 31st 2024. This special
rate provides a fantastic opportunity to secure a spot on this exclusive expedition at a
reduced cost. Availability is limited, so interested divers are encouraged to act quickly
to ensure they don’t miss out. All the details can be found on their WeTravel page, where
bookings can be made easily and payment instalments are available.

Expedition Galapagos, aboard the Galaxy Diver II offers more than just a diving
holiday—it is an investment in both personal and planetary well-being. By participating,
divers not only witness the majesty of one of the world’s premier diving locales but also
contribute to its preservation for future generations.

Find out more about Shark Guardian at www.sharkguardian.org.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Shark Trust Launches New Podcast

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shark trust

The Shark Trust has launched their new podcast. Delve behind the scenes and gain exclusive insights in the world of shark and ray conservation on The Shark Trust Podcast. Out Now!

Join the Shark Trust on this journey as they explore the diverse world of sharks. Hear from experts from different backgrounds and learn how you can become a part of the global effort to protect these vital species.

Whether you’re a seasoned shark expert or just dipping your toes beneath the surface, this podcast offers something for everyone!

shark trust

In the first series you will hear from the Shark Trust team. Shark Trust Patrons, Monty Halls, Miranda Krestovnikoff and Simon Rogerson. Divers with a passion for sharks. And some of the Oceanic 31 artists.

New episodes released every two weeks on all major podcast platforms and watch full video versions on the Shark Trust YouTube Channel. Keep your eyes peeled for the bonus minisodes!

There are two available to dive into right now!

Episode 1: Dive beneath the waves of shark and ray conservation with Mark as he speaks with Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust. Paul and Mark discuss the threats and difficulties that sharks and rays currently face in the modern world. And how the Shark Trust is working to create a better future for them!

Bonus Minisode: Join Mark at Go Diving, the UK’s biggest dive show. He interviews Shark Trust Patron, Simon Rogerson, about his diving experiences and how seeing sharks can transform your life!

For more information about the work of the Shark Trust, visit their website here.

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