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International development lecturers head to St.Helena to offer expertise in the UK Blue Belt programme

Dr Peter Howson and Dr Roy Smith visited St Helena in the South Atlantic to produce a report of recommendations for the Blue Belt programme

St Helena
Image courtesy of Dr Peter Howson

MA International Development and BA (Hons) Global Studies academics Dr Peter Howson and Dr Roy Smith recently visited St Helena to research the efficacy of the UK government’s Blue Belt Programme. The team will host a forum with Blue Belt stakeholders later this year to discuss their findings and recommendations, with plans to complete a wider project forming a comparative study of all sites in the future.

The Blue Belt programme supports the UK government’s manifesto commitment to provide long-term protection for over four million square kilometres of marine environment across the UK Overseas Territories. Covering seven islands and archipelagos across the world, the initiative aims to protect over 90% of UK Biodiversity through sustainable interventions, research and surveillance methods.

Peter and Roy worked with key stakeholders the Marine Management Organisation and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) throughout the project, organisations which inform overseas conservation strategy and policy for the UK government. The team chose St Helena as a starting point due to its low population, levels of poverty, and remoteness, reducing external threats such as commercial fishing and tourism.

St Helena Fishing
Fishing in St Helena

Findings from the trip will be used to inform both the MA International Development and Global Studies courses, using key themes of biodiversity, climate change and sustainability. Video footage and interviews from the trip will be used by academics to inform their teaching of research methods. Postgraduate students will have the opportunity to get involved with the project in future by becoming a Research Assistant as part of their placement module.

The team assessed the efficacy of conservation efforts in the region, in order to inform Blue Belt stakeholders of best practice. They found evidence of ‘unplanned conservation’ whereby effective sustainability is seen outside of direct conservation efforts, and is already happening in the area. St Helena is implementing a Category 6 (sustainable use) enclosure. The approach was found to be an effective way to manage St Helena’s fishery while monitoring illegal fishing by unlicensed vessels. While some fishing was taking place, St Helena’s fisherman were helpful in warding off threats from poachers, which wouldn’t have been possible if the area was protected as a Category 1 (no-take) enclosure. The overall learning outcomes from the project so far have been that over-protection can actually have adverse effects on sustainability, and that a more holistic approach to marine conservation is preferred, human needs and behaviours need to be taken into account as well as marine biodiversity conservation.

Published on 5 February 2019
  • Subject area: Politics and international studies
  • Category: Staff; School of Arts and Humanities