Support the guardians of the Atlantic

It takes longer to sail to Tristan da Cunha than it took Apollo 11 to get to the moon. But when the small community who live on this remote island created one of the biggest wildlife sanctuaries on the planet, news travelled far and wide, even reaching Hollywood...

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Remote living

Nearly 2,000Km from the nearest land, 250 people live on Tristan da Cunha – the most remote inhabited island in the world. Life on the volcanic UK Overseas Territory revolves around the rich waters of the South Atlantic, with fishing for the Tristan Rock Lobster a vital source of income. But the community know how fragile these seas and islands are and that even small changes can have devastating consequences for them and the huge variety of life which they live alongside. For decades they have been taking action to help the wildlife of the island and surrounding seas and campaigning for legal protection.

Unique wildlife

Tristan da Cunha and its neighbouring uninhabited islands - Gough Island, Inaccessible Island and Nightingale Island - are home to some pretty special wildlife. Nightingale Island is the only place in the world you can see Wilkins’s Buntings. And if you manage to access it, you can find the UK’s rarest bird on Inaccessible Island - the aptly named Inaccessible rail. This is the world’s smallest flightless bird which survives here eating bugs and some of the plants.

Flocks of millions

The four islands are also home to some of the most important places for seabirds on the planet. Tens of millions live here including five million Great Shearwaters, the critically endangered Tristan Albatross, the Atlantic Yellow Nosed Albatross and the aptly named spectacled petrel. Northern Rockhopper Penguins cram along the rocky shorelines, waddling down to the sea past their noisy fur seal neighbours. Below the waves life is equally impressive. Schools of fish swarm, octopus skulk and the Tristan Rock Lobsters hide in submarine caves. Blue Sharks can be found prowling the depths, while Dusky Dolphins and Beaked Whales regularly visit the rich waters to feed.

A Tristan Albatross landing on the ocean surface with small waves.

Under threat

Despite being so isolated, Tristan da Cunha’s wildlife and community face many threats from the outside world. Seabirds can become trapped on unregulated and illegal long line fishing vessels. The accidental introduction of species such as rats and mice has also led to large numbers of seabirds dying on some of the islands.

Making history

“If the world's most remote community can make a difference, others across the world can follow suit. Today Tristanians can be proud as the world recognises us as true guardians of the south Atlantic.”

James Glass, Chief Islander of Tristan da Cunha, and Head of the Fisheries Department.

For decades the people of Tristan da Cunha have led the way to campaign for greater protection for their islands and the surrounding ocean. The RSPB and partners have been supporting them, such as by helping to set up the Government’s Conservation Department and on projects such as trying to remove mice from Gough Island. This is crucial to stop the rodents eating the eggs and young of the seabirds which live there.

Over the years there have been numerous successes but in 2021, something truly historic happened. The community’s hard work, ambition and persistence to gain protection paid off and a vast new marine protection zone (MPZ) was created. It covers an area almost three times the size of the UK, that’s 687,000km2. No fishing, mining, drilling or any other harmful activity can take place here. It’s what’s known as a “no take” zone and it is the largest of its kind in the Atlantic. It forms part of the UK government’s Blue Belt Programme which is designed to protect and enhance ocean life around the UK Overseas Territories.

Going Hollywood

News of this achievement travelled far and wide, so much so that Leonardo Di Caprio praised the work of the community on his social media. He wasn’t the only big star to congratulate their efforts, with famous marine biologist Sylvia Earla and the former Prince of Wales, now King Charles III, also commending the community for the work they’ve led.

Setting the standard

There may have been lots of partners involved, but make no mistake, this inspiring achievement wouldn’t have been possible without the support, hard work and determination of the Tristan da Cunha community.

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