In a significant environmental milestone, international marine conservation non-profit organisation, Mission Blue, has officially recognised St Helena’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) as a Hope Spot. Hope Spots are special places that are scientifically identified as critical to the health of the ocean.
This global recognition celebrates the island’s 20-year journey of marine research and conservation and underlines its commitment to preserving ocean health, echoing South Africa’s conservation efforts.
St Helena’s 450 000sqkm MPA becomes a part of the ocean network of 157 Hope Spots worldwide. South Africa is home to six Hope Spots, designated by Mission Blue in 2014.
St Helena Island stands out for its near-pristine marine environment and rich biodiversity, including migratory species like tuna, Whale sharks, and Humpback whales.
This British Overseas Territory lies in the South Atlantic, over 2 500km west of the Angolan coast, with its nearest neighbour, Ascension Island, more than 1 000km away. It is one of the most remote islands in the world.
"This marine protected area and new Hope Spot of nearly half a million square miles now faces pressures largely outside its control from rapidly changing climate, pollution, invasive species and pollution,” says Dr Sylvia Earle, Founder of Mission Blue. “By becoming a Hope Spot, St Helena can act as a beacon to the rest of the world. Although geographically isolated, it is deeply ecologically connected to many distant realms, and indeed, other Hope Spots.”
The island has made strides in marine conservation, as evidenced by its nomination as a Hope Spot, a shared interest with South Africa. Minister for Environment, Natural Resources, and Planning, Christine Scipio, emphasised the St Helena community’s pride in their marine stewardship.
Director of St Helena National Trust, Helena Bennett, said: “Our island and its surrounding waters are steeped in our culture and traditions and have played a massive role in our history’s timeline since our island’s discovery in 1502, evolving our way with a sense of nostalgia and a feeling of belonging and home.”
UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Minister, David Rutley, praised St Helena’s efforts, acknowledging the Blue Belt Programme’s role in supporting innovative marine conservation initiatives, naming it as “an exemplar of creating positive change for the protection of the marine environment for the rest of the world”.
The UK Government’s Blue Belt Programme supports UK Overseas Territories with the protection and sustainable management of their marine environments.
This recognition as a Hope Spot not only celebrates St Helena’s environmental achievements but also serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for global ocean conservation, especially relevant to countries like South Africa with shared maritime heritage.
Click here to watch the video of Dr Earle welcoming the St Helena Island Hope Spot.