Marine Protected Area status for St Helena
The special status of the waters surrounding St Helena has been confirmed with a 200 nautical mile maritime zone in the sea around the island designated a Marine Protected Area (MPA).
The announcement of MPA status comes as part of a Foreign and Commonwealth Office increase in marine protection for UK Overseas Territories totalling around four million square kilometres. The MPA and subsequent Marine Management Plan for this area were agreed by Executive Council under the St Helena Environmental Protection Ordinance, 2016.
Dive St Helena by Rainer Schimpf
It is a significant step forward for the Island in meeting both local and international commitments and protecting local maritime interests, as well as boosting the Island’s offering as a world-class diving destination
The Marine Management Plan (MMP) relates to the designated Marine Protected Area and identifies the existing and potential pressures in St Helena’s waters, which includes pollution, fishing, biosecurity, tourism and construction. The MMP specifies management strategies which ensure our natural marine resources are used sustainably.
St Helena’s impressive marine environment is home to over forty endemic species and supports a diverse array of marine life. What’s more, whale sharks congregate in such numbers between January and March each year to afford a rare 1 in 16 chance to swim with the largest fish in the sea.
Whale shark – Marine Section, Environmental Management Division
The waters around this sub-tropical island are ripe for discovery, with 14 potential new species identified during a two-year Darwin Marine Biodiversity and Mapping Project completed last year. This rich marine life, coupled with clear, warm waters and 18th century ship wrecks make the island a must-visit snorkelling and scuba diving destination.
“Perhaps best known as Napoleon’s place of exile, St Helena has been quietly garnering interest over a number of years amongst the dive community thanks to those same watery surrounds that kept the Emperor incarcerated,” says Director of Tourism, Christopher Pickard. “On my last trip on board the RMS St Helena we spotted a huge pod of dolphins, a whale, a sea lion, and a multitude of birds, all just in one voyage.”
Turtle – Marine Section, Environmental Management Division
Both bottlenose and pantropical spotted dolphin play in these waters, whilst humpback whales are known to visit St Helena from June to October. Green and hawksbill turtles can often be found around the island and even spotted at the wharf steps in Jamestown.