The UK has declared a marine conservation zone around the remote island of Saint Helena in the southern tropics of the Atlantic Ocean. The economy of the island, a British Overseas Territory, has been undermined by overfishing by foreign fishing vessels. The new ‘one hook, one line, one fish at a time’ fishing restriction announced today bans all forms of destructive fishing gear in the territory’s waters and only permits tuna to be caught one fish at a time.

The 47 square-mile island, often referred to as “the secret of the Atlantic”, has a maritime zone encompassing 172,439 square miles of open-ocean habitat, within a region rich with marine fauna. It has a long tradition of responsible small-scale pole-and-line fishing where tuna are caught one at a time.

The project launched by the International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF), the St Helena government, the St Helena Fisheries Corporation and supported by local fishermen, is attempting to protect the fishery and bolster the returns to this remote island community. It will establish best-practice traceability, transparency and data recording systems and improve safety-at-sea. Aligned with all of these measures, project partners plan to communicate the accomplishments of this fishery to a global audience, inspiring like-minded governments and coastal communities with this model that rewards low-impact fisheries and marine conservation.

Stephane Weston, Business Manager & COO of the St Helena Fisheries Corporation, said: “While many small island countries and territories have committed to partial no-take areas, this will take marine conservation to another level entirely. Imagine a 400,000 km2 maritime zone in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean where dolphins, whales, sharks and turtles have no chance of encountering bottom trawling or baited longlines. There won’t be a single purse seine net to surround schools of marine life. Not only will the project provide a lifeline to St Helena, it is also an opportunity to define how fisheries should operate in the 21st century – a fully safe, sustainable and environmentally friendly fishing industry that is locally owned and operated. This project will also make a significant contribution to the local economy by producing high quality products for sale on the island and for export.”

Local Governor Lisa Phillips said: “For centuries St Helenians have had the closest of bonds with their surrounding waters and its precious resources. Our inherent respect for the marine ecosystem has ensured sustainability remains at the forefront of our fisheries policy, along with the need to provide a bright future for our fishing community. I therefore welcome the endeavours of IPNLF in helping us to implement a special marine conservation zone in which the island’s rich marine life is preserved and the commercial interests of those who earn a living from fishing is improved.”

The project is being supported by Oceans 5 – an international funders’ collaborative inspired by opportunities that can bring lasting benefits to coastal communities.