The United Kingdom has designated two new, very large marine areas in its Overseas Territory of St Helena, Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic Ocean. The new Wetlands of International Importance, both effective 20 November 2008, are centered on Gough Island and Inaccessible Island, respectively, with surrounding waters, and both are parts of the World Heritage natural site called “Gough and Inaccessible Islands” (1995, enlarged in 2004), as well as Nature Reserves and BirdLife Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and managed in the context of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (2004), to which the UK is a Party. Ramsar’s Ms Nadezhda Alexeeva
has prepared brief site descriptions, based upon the Ramsar Information Sheets provided by Defra, the Ramsar authority in the UK.
Gough Island (229,811 hectares, 40º19’S 009º56’W) is one of the largest relatively unmodified cool temperate island ecosystems in the southern hemisphere. Important wetland types include non-forested peatlands, permanent freshwater pools, permanent streams, marine subtidal aquatic beds and rocky marine shores. The island is a strong contender for the title of the most important seabird colony in the world – a total of 22 bird species and two species of seals breed, some in very large numbers. Several bird species that breed on Gough are considered globally threatened (e.g., Sooty Albatross, Northern Rockhopper Penguin), and some are endemic to the island group (e.g., Gough Moorhen, Gough Bunting, Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross). The South African meteorological station is currently run on the island; other human activities include research, commercial fishery for Tristan Rock Lobster in Gough territorial waters, and limited recreational fishing under license.
Inaccessible Island (126,524 hectares, 37º18’S 012º41’W) is a near-pristine cool temperate island of volcanic origin. A total of 24 species of seabirds and land birds as well as the Subantarctic Fur Seal breed there, some in very large numbers. Non-forested peatlands and rocky marine shores are critical to the survival of the breeding populations of Tristan Albatross (relict population of 2-3 pairs) and Spectacled Petrel (island endemic), and Northern Rockhopper Penguin and Sooty Albatross, respectively, all of which are globally threatened. Other important wetland types include permanent freshwater pools, permanent streams and marine subtital aquatic beds. There is no permanent human population – from time to time small numbers of researchers and conservation management teams visit the island. Commercial fishery for Tristan Rock Lobster and limited recreational fishing under license take place in Inaccessible’s territorial waters.
The United Kingdom now has 168 Ramsar sites (of which 16 are in the Overseas Territories), totaling 1,274,323 hectares.