21 September 2016

British 'colonial conservation' project restricts fishing in large areas of the waters off its Pacific, South Atlantic dependencies


British control of far flung islands of Pitcairn, St. Helena, now being used as "conservation" areas bans commercial fishing; Similar restrictions in Asension and Tristan da Cunha to be put in place  in coming years. 

UK to ban fishing from a million square kilometres of ocean

The UK is to ban commercial fishing from a million square kilometres of ocean around British overseas territories, the government said on Thursday.

In total, the government is creating marine protected areas around four islands in the Pacific and Atlantic, including the designation this week of one of the world’s biggest around the Pitcairn Islands.

A 840,000 sq km (320,000 sq mile) area around Pitcairn, where the mutineers of the Bounty settled, becomes a no-take zone for any fishing from this week. St Helena, around 445,000 sq km of the south Atlantic ocean and home to whale sharks and humpbacks, is now also designated as a protected area.

The foreign office said it would designate two further marine protection zones, one each around two south Altantic islands – Ascension by 2019 and Tristan da Cunha by 2020.

Sir Alan Duncan, minister of state for Europe and the Americas, said: “Protecting 4m sq km of ocean is a fantastic achievement, converting our historic legacy into modern environmental success.”

Commercial fishing will be banned in all of Pitcairn’s zone – excepting ‘sustainable’ local fishing – and half of the 445,390 sq km Ascension protected area. Fishing will be allowed in the other areas, but activities such as oil drilling will be prohibited.

Conservationists welcomed the new protections. “By protecting the vast array of marine life within these rich waters, the United Kingdom has solidified its position as a leader in ocean conservation,” said Joshua S Reichert, of the Pew Charitable Trusts, which is working with the UK on technology to monitor the Pitcairn area.

Jonathan Hall, the RSPB’s head of UK Overseas Territories, said: “This is simply enormous and shows world-leading vision.”

The UK announcement, at the Our Oceans summit in Washington, came as the White House said the US would ban fishing in a 5,000 sq km area in the Altantic, known as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts marine national monument. That followed Barack Obama’s expansion last month of the Papahānaumokuākea monument off Hawaii.

In his speech at the Washington conference, Duncan quipped: “this was going to have been my big moment, because until last week the Pitcairn MPA would have been the largest in the world. But President Obama sort of rather blew that out of the water by announcing an even bigger MPA in Hawaii – trust the Yanks to indulge in a bit of one-upmanship over us poor Brits.

“But we’re happy as our loss is the world’s gain and we congratulate the United States.”

This week, scientists warned that humanity is driving an unprecedented extinction of the largest marine creatures that could affect ocean ecology for millions of years. Experts said the large range required for such creatures meant large-scale marine protected areas would be a key part of addressing the problem.

St Maarten government MPs support call for a referendum on independence

GREAT BAY, St Martin -- A majority of St Maarten 
parliamentarians present at the reconvened meeting of the Central Committee of Parliament held on Friday, September 2, 2016, with a delegation of the Independence for St Martin Foundation (ISMF), expressed support for the foundation’s call for a referendum to be held so that the people of the territory could have their say on the issue of independence. 

Joseph H. Lake, Jr, president, Independence for St Martin Foundation (ISMF)

President of the ISMF, Jose Lake, Jr., made the case for a referendum to be called on the issue of independence and urged the Members of Parliament to act swiftly to make this happen within the next year.

Dr Rhoda Arrindell, secretary of the foundation, addressed the issue of placing St Maarten back on the United Nations (UN) list of non-self-governing territories. She said when the territory was removed from the list by the Netherlands in 1954 the people of the island were not consulted.

Arrindell further elaborated on why such reinstatement would not be a step backwards as some had argued, pointing out that the “autonomy of St Maarten” is a myth as the territory is still a colony that does not have control over the appointment of the governor, nor over constitutional matters, which still require the approval of the Dutch Kingdom government.

Arrindell added that in both judicial and financial matters, the last word remained with the Kingdom government.

“What autonomy are we talking about?” she asked rhetorically.

She then proceeded to answer the questions posed by the MPs during the May 18 meeting.

Placing the territory back on the United Nations (UN) list would secure international support for the island’s quest, Arrindell said. She added that St Eustatius and Bonaire are also seeking the same thing, having taken their case to the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) heads of state meeting and to the UN.

Independence, continued Arrindell, is a right of all colonized people, and not a privilege.

“If a right is not a priority for politicians, what else would be?” she asked.

Friday’s meeting was adjourned briefly to allow the ISMF to answer additional questions from the MPs.

President of Parliament, Sarah Wescott-Williams, brought the meeting to a close after she indicated that the next step would be for the foundation to present a formal petition to Parliament and/or for the individual MPs to make use of their right to present a motion to a plenary session of the legislative body.

“We are very satisfied with the outcome of the meeting,” said Lake. The ISMF president noted that during the first meeting, ten of the MPs present expressed support for independence.

“That’s a two-thirds majority,” he stated.

He reiterated that the quest for independence is not a partisan issue and urged the politicians to take the lead in working with the people. A referendum does not mean that the territory would obtain independence the next day, but it would signal the beginning of the march towards sovereignty, Lake said.

The meeting was a continuation of the first one held on May 18, 2016, which was adjourned after the MPs listened to the presentation of the foundation, made some remarks and posed a series of questions, which the ISMF had the opportunity to answer on Friday.