Changing Planet

Pitcairn Islands Become World’s Largest Single Marine Reserve

With bright colors and crazy teeth, this Titan triggerfish was one of the most memorable characters encountered on the Pristine Seas Pitcairn Expedition. (Photo by Enric Sala/National Geographic)

Today the U.K. government announced the creation of the world’s largest contiguous marine protected area, covering an area larger than California or the U.K. itself around the Pitcairn Islands in the remote South Pacific (get the full story from National Geographic News).

The announcement comes three years after a National Geographic Pristine Seas expedition in cooperation with the Pew Charitable Trusts explored the area more extensively than any expedition in history and revealed healthy fish populations and intact marine ecosystems dominated by top predators.

Among the four islands of Pitcairn, Ducie, Oeno, and Henderson contained in the new marine reserver, only Pitcairn is inhabited today.

More than 200 years after the famous mutiny on the Bounty, some 50 descendants of those sailors and their Tahitian wives still call these two square miles of rock home, while Henderson was home briefly to a few of the beleaguered survivors of the Essex, sunk by a sperm whale in the late 19th century.

The new reserve contains some of the best coral reefs in the world and intact deep-sea habitats with many species new to science. Now these treasures in the Pacific will be protected for generations to come.

Pristine Seas has contributed to over 2.2 million square kilometers of ocean protection. But we’ve still got a long way to go to meet the global conservation goal of protecting 10% of the ocean by 2020. Just last week, Pristine Seas launched its first expedition of 2015 to the outer islands of the Seychelles. The team has already encountered inquisitive giant groupers, territorial tortoises and some of the healthiest coral reefs seen in the Indian Ocean today.

Throughout the Pitcairn expedition, National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence Enric Sala and Mike Fay chronicled their adventures, discoveries, and stunning photographs on the Explorers Journal blog. Relive it all in the archived posts below and keep following for more updates from Seychelles and other expeditions to come.

While we celebrate today’s success, we don’t stop moving forward with exploring our ocean!

Highlights From the Pitcairn Expedition

Arriving at Pitcairn Island

Nearly 90 Species Found on One Dive

Photos: A World in One Coral

Revealing an Underwater Paradise

Sharks and Coral at Ducie Atoll

Full Pitcairn Archive

Read All Posts in Order

Mike Fay’s Pitcairn Journal

Maggie Hines is the program specialist for National Geographic's Pristine Seas project. She works with Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Enric Sala on all aspects of the Pristine Seas project, including planning and executing expeditions to the most remote places on the planet. A Virginia native, her summers were spent on the Chesapeake Bay at her grandmother’s house and on the shores of North Carolina. Maggie received a B.A. in Studio Art with a concentration in photography, and a B.B.A. in Management with a concentration in technology, innovation and entrepreneurship from James Madison University.

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