St Helena Online

South Georgia

Net saving? Ascension no-fishing zone could cost £3m – or not

Creating one of the world’s biggest marine protection zones around Ascension Island could cost the UK about £3 million a year – at a Conservative estimate.

The conservationist estimate, on the other hand, is only £400,000 a year.

12 The Great WetropolisClick the pic to see a gallery of Ascension marine life

Celebrities and academics have joined with conservation groups in calling on the British government to create three massive maritime “parks” in the Atlantic and South Pacific, with a complete ban on commercial fishing.

The Tory Foreign Minister Hugo Swire has said the likely cost of full enforcement could be judged from the £2.75m spent each year patrolling a reserve in the Indian Ocean.

Policing the seas was even more expensive around South Georgia, “where a patrol vessel alone costs approximately £3.2m per year,” he said in a Commons Written Answer on 9 February 2015.

But the environment writer Charles Clover has put the cost at a mere £400,000 a year, according to The Guardian website.

Thanks to satellite technology, it would not be necessary to have a patrol boat out searching vast areas of ocean for pirate fishing vessels, he told the site.

The Guardian also reported that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had begun discussions with people on Ascension about creating a reserve.

It understood that “indigenous” fishing would be allowed up to 18 miles offshore. That may not reassure keen sport fishermen on Ascension, which officially has no permanent or “indigenous” population.

The Blue Marine Foundation has spear-headed a campaign to have three marine reserves created around Ascension, the Southern Atlantic territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich islands, and the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific.

It says they would protect 1.75 million square kilometres of ocean – expanding the total area of ocean reserves by 50 per cent.

The foundation describes Ascension’s warm waters as “a green turtle Mecca and one of the last remaining hotspots for Atlantic megafauna such as tuna, marlin and shark.”

A campaign letter has been signed by 42 conservation bodies, including Birdlife International, the RSPB, Greenpeace UK, the Zoological Society of London, and the less-well-known Fin Fighters UK and Fish Fight.

The actresses Greta Scacchi, Dame Helena Bonham Cater, Julie Christie and Zoe Wanamaker have added their names to those of leading scientists and environmental figures in the letter to the UK government.

The foundation said in a statement: “More than 94 per cent of the UK’s biodiversity is found in its overseas territories.

“Rare whales, turtles, fish, penguins, corals and albatrosses are among the wildlife that would benefit if the reserves were to be set up.”

Ascension’s underwater wonders revealed
UK ‘doesn’t even know’ about eco threats, say MPs
St Helena tops the league table for unique species
Blue Marine Foundation – press release
Conservationists call for UK to create world’s largest marine reserve – The Guardian
Cost of patrolling Ascension reserve – Commons Written Answer

Historian wants to bring Great War wreck back home

The Viola / Dias, photographed in the 1990s by  Lieutenant Philip Hall of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The Viola / Dias, photographed in the 1990s by Lieutenant Philip Hall of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A rusting trawler in South Georgia is thought to be the last surviving boat of its kind to have served in the First World War – and now a historian wants to return it toEngland.

The Hull Daily Mail says the Viola was converted to carry out anti-submarine patrols, and helped sink two German submarines off the British coast.

After the war, it was used for whaling off the coast of Africa, before being sold to an Argentinian firm that used it for sealing around South Georgia – renamed Dias.

It was laid up on the shore after the whaling station at Grytviken closed in the 1960s and was still there when scrap metal merchants landed on South Georgia, triggering the Falklands War. 

The vessel sank on its mooring in 1974, according to the Wikipedia website.

In 2004, the site says, the Dias and the neighbouring Albatros were refloated, cleared of all remaining oil, and beached.

An organisation, the “Friends of Viola/Dias“, has been set up to preserve the ship – either on South Georgia or in its home port of Hull.

A website dedicated to the ship says: “Viola’s story is unique: a remarkable story of fisheries, whaling, sealing, war and exploration during which she both weathered and witnessed many aspects of mankind’s 20th Century struggles on the sea.

“Viola was one of 50-or-so trawlers built for the Hellyer Boxing Fleet in 1906. By 1918 no less than twenty two of her sister vessels had been lost, to either the elements or enemy action in the Great War.

“Today, apart from this little ship, all physical trace of the once proud Hellyer fleet has disappeared.

“Viola/Dias is now the oldest surviving former steam trawler in the world with her steam engines still intact.”

In 2006 the Viola’s original bell was discovered on a farm in Norway and purchased by Hull Maritime Museum. In 2008 the bell was returned to the ship

The Hull Daily Mail quotes Dr Robb Robinson, who works at the Maritime Historical Studies Centre in Hull, saying it would cost about £500,000 to take the boat back to the UK on a barge, and a further £1m to restore it.

He said the centenary of the First World War probably provided the best chance to inspire a campaign to transport the ship home. “Its story is a voyage through the 20th Century,” he said. “For me, it would be a dream to see it come back after all this time.”

Great War boat could finally be coming home – Hull Daily Mail
Viola (trawler) – Wikipedia
Viola/Dias website