The UK is designating an enormous amount of space located around a few of its British overseas territories as protected areas, ending commercial fishing around the islands and ensuring preservation of marine life in the area. The announcement makes it one of the world’s largest fishing-free zones. Even better, two additional islands are expected to be granted protected status by 2020.

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Pitcairn, located in the southern Pacific, will face an end to commercial fishing in its 840,000 sq km (320,000 sq mile) of space. Similarly, in the southern Atlantic, the 445,000 sq km around Saint Helena Island will also be protected. “Sustainable” local fishing will be permitted, but activities such as oil drilling will be off the table.

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The islands of Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, both near Saint Helena, will join the two islands in their status by the years 2019 and 2020, respectively. Sir Alan Duncan, the minister of state for Europe and the Americas, stated to The Guardian, “Protecting 4m sq km of ocean is a fantastic achievement, converting our historic legacy into modern environmental success.”

The announcement comes on the heels of President Obama announcing the ban of fishing in a 5,000 sq km area in the Atlantic and last month’s expansion of the Hawaiian Papahānaumokuākea monument, leading Duncan to cheekily remark, “[T]rust 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.”

Via The Guardian

Images via Wikimedia (1,2)