THE remote Ascension Island which was occupied by Great Britain in the early 19th century in order to stop the French from using it as a base from which to launch a rescue of Napoleon who was exiled to St Helena is to become the latest marine reserve being created by governments around the world.
The size of this reserve which is due to be inaugurated by 2017 is almost as large as the United Kingdom at nearly 250,000 square kilometres and is the fifth marine reserve to be announced in the past 12 months after Easter Island, Kermadec Islands, Palau and Pitcairn Islands, all of which are in the Pacific Ocean whilst Ascension is in the South Atlantic.
The overall concept is to try to promote marine conservation in all of these areas and Ascension is an important staging ground for green turtles and blue marlin as well as an important breeding site for seabirds.
Part of the area will be made available for controlled fishing whilst the other part will be fishery free with boats patrolling the area on a regular basis, the cost of which will not all come from the British taxpayer but from a grant of £300,000 from the Louis Bacon Foundation, a charitable body.
Ascension Island was first visited by Charles Darwin in the 19th century, although he was not particularly complimentary about it and has always been a British military station which it now shares with the USA who built Wideawake Airport during the Second World War.
It’s importance as both as a NASA tracking station and BBC transmitting station has waned over the years, but there is consideration to allowing very limited expansion of a tourist market to the island which can be reached by occasional vessel and the RAF flight to the Falkland Islands which refuels at Ascension.