Following our first trip to Pitcairn Island in February/March 2011, and our return visit in March/April of this year with the National Geographic Pristine Seas expedition team, Global Ocean Legacy staff members Jay Nelson, Heather Bradner and Elisabeth Whitebread, accompanied by Dr Enric Sala and Neil Gelinas of National Geographic, have just returned from another successful visit to the British Overseas Territory in the South Pacific.
Our aim in returning to Pitcairn was to share with the community and Island Council several reports we have been working on since our first visit in 2011. At that time, the Island Council voted in favour of us starting to investigate the possibility of creating a large highly protected marine reserve within their waters. Important information relating to the marine environment and also the potential economic costs and benefits of designating a marine reserve was missing however, and so Global Ocean Legacy commissioned reports to cover each of these areas (the report on Pitcairn’s marine environment has now been published by the Dundee University Press and is available for purchase online).
We also wished to share with the Pitcairners some of the exciting results of the joint National Geographic/ Global Ocean Legacy scientific expedition that took place in March/April this year, and to premiere with them the National Geographic documentary about the expedition that will air on NatGeoWild in March 2013. This film showcases some of the incredible undersea environments of the Pitcairn Islands, including near-intact coral reefs, abundant shark populations and crystal-clear waters. For many Pitcairn islanders, this was the first time they had seen the wonder of the ocean life that exists in the outer regions of their waters, and their amazement and pride at the beauty and importance of their own seas was moving to witness.
During our visit we also met formally with the Island Council to discuss with them our reports and the proposal for the creation of a large-scale marine reserve in their waters. We would like to extend to them our appreciation for their thoughtful questions and their commitment to exploring this idea in such detail with us.
It was an honour and a privilege to return to Pitcairn and meet once again with the Island Council and with our many friends in the Pitcairn community. Global Ocean Legacy and National Geographic would like to thank the Pitcairn Islanders, the Island Council and the crew of the vessel Claymore II for helping to make our return visit so enjoyable. We look forward to continuing to work together towards the creation of the world’s largest marine reserve in their remarkable corner of the ocean.