Protecting the most remote inhabited island on the planet

Located in the south Atlantic Ocean, the archipelago of Tristan da Cunha is the most remote inhabited island on the planet. It is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its biodiversity and rare wild bird life.

The Tristanian community, working with a consortium of leading conservation organisations – headed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Conservation International – has created an endowment to develop and sustain a marine protected area (MPA) in the waters surrounding the archipelago. The resulting zone encompasses more than 680,000 km2 (an area three times the size of the UK), creating the largest no-take area in the Atlantic Ocean and the world's fourth largest marine reserve.

This marine protected area will safeguard a number of the world's most important seabird breeding sites as well as populations of seals, penguin colonies and blue sharks (among others).

A legal team, drawn from DLA Piper offices in the UK (London, Birmingham, Sheffield) and US (Washington, DC), provided pro bono support for the project. Our finance and corporate lawyers worked together with the donor organisations to document the underlying structure and funding of the MPA.

This project represents a significant milestone in the UK government's marine conservation commitments. Its launch at the end of 2020 marked the fulfilment of the country's Blue Belt commitment to preserve the biodiversity of its Overseas Territories, as well as a key achievement in the UK-led 30-by-30 campaign to preserve 30% of the world's ocean in designated marine protected areas by 2030. For our lawyers it is an important opportunity to collaborate with communities and high-level conservationists to develop effective governance structures for the safeguarding of rare species and fragile habitats.