Safe haven: The Hawksbill turtle is one of the creatures that could benefit from a marine reserve. *Photo by Chris Burville
Safe haven: The Hawksbill turtle is one of the creatures that could benefit from a marine reserve. *Photo by Chris Burville

The Sargasso Sea is home to more than 100 species of fish and 145 types of invertebrates. Turtles use the Sargassum weed to shelter while eels, humpbacks and game fish pass through the waters.

Many of these species are on the IUCN red list of threatened or endangered species including the hawksbill turtle, European and American eel and the scalloped hammerhead shark. Many of these are pelagic animals and it remains to be proven whether a high seas reserve can help them or improve fish stocks closer in shore.

Mr Ward said: “No one has been able to demonstrate that these high seas MPAs work. None of them have been in existence long enough. Scientists are advocating saying ‘please give them the best chance we can’. 

“I believe we should put a reserve on a place where fish aggregate and so it has a real potential of working. If we make a reserve that is this skinny little ribbon around the island, [the smallest option on the consultation paper] if you are a longliner following the school of fish you might pop 20 miles over there and set the lines over there.

“You won’t change a damn thing but you will create a marine reserve that failed — that is damaging the future of high seas reserves as an option.”

Mr Flook added: “The bigger the reserve the bigger the habitat you are covering and the more chance you have of impacting stocks. And then by default the bigger the reserve the easier it is to enforce.

"We could have proposed a marine reserve closer to the island where we know fish aggregate but we didn’t want to affect local fishing practices.”
 



Marine reserve: Q&A


Does a reserve amount to ‘commercial suicide’?

What if opportunity knocks?

Why don’t we just use current legislation to fine illegal fishing operations?

Could a marine reserve attract an influx of eco-tourists and marine scientists?

What are the marine reserve choices?

Do marine reserves help the environment?
How can we enforce such a huge area?