St Helena Online

Tag: Tristan da Cunha

More action planned on illegal fishing – minister

The UK government is planning to step up efforts to investigate illegal fishing around St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, it has been revealed.

The House of Lords heard that short term patrols and satellite monitoring are already used to track fishing vessels around the islands.

But it appears the islands do not yet benefit from oversight by the UK’s National Maritime Information Centre – set up in 2011 to detect dangers such as sea-borne terrorist threats.

The centre does protect waters around two other overseas territories chosen as Marine Protected Zone – and a third such zone is planned for Ascension, suggesting it may get similar protection.

Lord West of Spithead
Lord West of Spithead

The information was disclosed by foreign minister Baroness Anelay in response to a question by Lord West of Spithead on 3 February 2016.

He asked whether the new agency “is providing comprehensive surface coverage of the exclusive economic zones of dependent territories to ensure wildlife and resource protection; and how those zones are policed, in particular around Tristan da Cunha, Ascension Island and St Helena.”

Baroness Anelay replied that the centre was helping to investigate illegal and unregulated fishing around the British Indian Ocean Territory – meaning the Chagos Islands – and Pitcairn, in the Pacific Ocean.

She said: “Overseas territories are policed in a variety of ways as marine management is a devolved responsibility.

“In St Helena, Ascension and Tristan de Cunha, a variety of surveillance and enforcement measures are deployed, including satellite monitoring, vessel tracking, short term patrols and observer coverage of fishing vessels.

“Potential enhancements to surveillance and enforcement requirements for the UK’s 14 overseas territories are being considered as part of the government’s commitment to create a Blue Belt around these territories.”

The planned Blue Belt of protected waters around all UK overseas territories was announced with great fanfare at a reception at the House of Commons in September 2015.

Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith declared it “the biggest conservation commitment by any government ever.”

 

It includes a plan to create a vast protected zone around Ascension, with only limited sustainable fishing allowed – similar to zones already established or announced round the Chagos and Pitcairn islands.

“Blue belt” marine conservation zones, with lesser protection, are promised for all other territories, including St Helena.

People at the launch event heard how satellite and radar data are being used to detect fishing vessels by tracking the pattern of their movements.

The technique is described in a news report on the website of the Blue and Green Tomorrow campaign group.

It says: “Analysts can track declared fishing vessels and monitor the behaviour of undeclared ones.

“Container ships and cruise liners tend to go in straight lines. Fishing vessels tend to hover where there are fish. If a ship exhibits suspicious behaviour the relevant authority can be notified.”

The site says: “Industrial fishing ships can stay at sea for months refuelling and offloading stock mid-ocean. A quarter of all fishing is illegal. But the world’s oceans are a notoriously difficult place to monitor and protect.”

Lord West is a former Royal Navy officer who rose to become First Sea Lord and later Chief of Defence Intelligence.

He is also chairman of Spearfish, a company the helps clients “manage physical security risks – both on land and at sea.”

His listed interests include defence and the environment, and overseas territories in the South Atlantic.

Read more:
Biggest ever conservation commitment: UK overseas territories’ Blue Belt

(Original image of Lord West from Wikimedia Commons)

St Helena gets first female governor – after 359 years

Lisa Phillips, by ILRI/Riccardo Gangale (under Creative Commons licence)
Lisa Phillips, by ILRI/Riccardo Gangale (under Creative Commons licence)

Lisa Phillips is to be the first female governor of St Helena since the job was first created more than 350 years ago, in 1657. She also becomes non-resident governor of Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.

Indy on Lisa Phillips front
The St Helena Independent hinted in October 2015 that Lisa Phillips could become governor

Her appointment will have come as no surprise to social media users or readers of the St Helena Independent.

The newspaper ran a teasing editorial on 2 October 2015, saying that it was time the island had a female governor – and “suggesting” Ms Phillips as an ideal choice.

It highlighted her forthright campaigning on women’s issues and AIDS in her role as head of Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) team in Kenya.

Six days before Christmas, she appeared to endorse the story by following a number of island-based users on the messaging website Twitter.

Shortly after the news was made official in London, she posted her own online announcement:

“So excited to share with my Twitter followers where my next job is. Such a privilege!”

A congratulatory message was quickly posted by Christina Scott, governor of Anguilla – another UK overseas territory in the Caribbean.

Twitter Lisa Phillips Anguilla

Lisa Phillips tweets and blogs regularly on issues such as open justice and ending female genital mutilation in Africa. She has promised to continue publishing her thoughts online in her new role.

Her emergence on Twitter as likely governor came just over a week after the Wass Inquiry report severely criticised the island government, and governor Mark Capes, for “inexcusably and repeatedly” repeatedly failing to act on warnings about child welfare.

Indy Phillips ragout
How the Indy hinted at Lisa Phillips’s future job

It also dismissed allegations of widespread sex abuse and official cover-ups.

The report found Governor Capes had not been adequately briefed on the existence of previous reports raising concerns about child safeguarding, and said his successor must be given stronger guidance.

The Independent editorial in October 2015 highlighted Ms Phillips’s work on issues similar to those found on St Helena.

As head of DFID Kenya, she describes her team’s work on “improving health, increasing the quality of education, reducing vulnerability among Kenya’s most disadvantaged, and catalysing private sector growth to create more jobs for young people.”

Twitter Lisa Phillips pic

She adds: “I’ve worked for DFID for more years than I care to mention in a variety of jobs, both in the UK and overseas.”

By 1984 she had worked with the Overseas Development Agency – fore-runner of DFID – in several countries in Southern Africa, before joining the ODA teams covering India, Barbados and South East Asia.

Managerial roles in the United Nations and Commonwealth Department were followed by work on migration. In 2011 she was made head of DFID’s department dealing with fragile states, and the following year, its lead on anti-corruption.

She became head of DFID Kenya in 2013.

Her appointment as governor of St Helena marks a break from the long-established tradition of appointing diplomats from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – a practice questioned in the Wass Report, which said the island needed a hands-on manager.

twitter Lisa Phillips congrats

Governor Andrew Gurr had also been recruited from outside the FCO, but he had served in a senior job on the Falklands.

When he left in 2011, the role was given to Mark Capes, an FCO man who will now take up another diplomatic posting. The location was not made public, but one Facebook user on St Helena undiplomatically wished him well in Antarctica.

The Independent’s October 2015 editorial suggested Mr Capes had focused his energies on the island’s airport project at the cost of addressing its pressing social needs – a view echoed by the Wass Report.

It said:

“Credit where it’s due: for Mr Capes, the airport has been the big job, and it’s been a success. But now we have some more human problems to address.

“So we’d like someone who knows about improving education, and has done something about it. We have an educated idea who that could be.

“We’re not all sex abusers, but there are too many victims of abuse. SHG’s style is to keep telling us how everything’s getting better, but we need someone who is actually willing to stand up and say, Yes, there’s a problem, because it was a failure to be open that allowed it to go on for so long.

“We want someone who is willing to stand up and say, out loud, “I want to end violence against women and girls.”

“Someone who’s willing to say, “Justice has to be seen to be done – and be done.” Someone who has actually spent time with the victims of sex crimes would be good, too.

“We know someone who’s said all that, and done all that.

“We never acknowledge there’s a problem with HIV on St Helena, but… there’s a problem with HIV. Too many people have the virus and for all we know, the number has gone up since work on the airport started.

“So we need someone who’s got experience of confronting that awful problem; someone who’s willing to admit it exists. Maybe someone who’s worked in Africa?”

Indy Phillips ragout end
The Independent in October 2015: one last attempt to make friends with Governor Capes?

Once the news of Ms Phillips’ appointment was out in the open, well-wishers in Kenya and around the world congratulated her.

She told one: “I will miss #magicalkenya so much, especially all the people I have met.”

  • Lisa Phillips is not merely the first woman to be chosen as head of state and representative of Her Majesty the Queen on St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha: she will also be the first governor of the territory to have given birth. She has one son.

See more pictures at the Brits in Kenya website

 

When Jonathan met Sally – and the story went global

 

Jonathan stares at the camera, beak open wide
Jonathan the tortoise, pictured by Guy Gatien

The BBC’s prestigious From Our Own Correspondent programme evidently has a fascination for St Helena: the island has featured on it at least four times in the space of five years. Judged against the size of the island’s population, this might make it – unofficially – the most interesting place on the planet, in the eyes of one BBC editor, at least.

Strange, then, that the BBC refused to answer a Freedom of Information request a couple of years ago, asking how many programmes it had recorded on St Helena in the 80-plus years of the corporation’s existence.

It claimed the matter was editorially sensitive, but it may well be that it didn’t want to admit that the answer, as far as anyone can recall, would be “none”. Foreign and independent documentary crews have been out, but Britain’s state broadcaster has not done so well.

From Our Own Correspondent, though, has enjoyed rich pickings from the island – this time, with a piece on Jonathan the tortoise, the world’s oldest known living creature.

The full text of Sally Kettle’s piece was published in the St Helena Independent on 14 March 2014 and can be found on her website.

Sally achieved the distinction of having an extract played on BBC Radio 4’s Pick Of The Week programme a couple of days later, when it was introduced with the question, How can you tell whether a 200-year-old tortoise is happy?

Jonathan’s age dropped to a mere 182 in the piece itself (leaving aside the fact that his exact age isn’t known; he could be 20 years younger).

It was Sally’s passionate delivery of her script that really stood out. Click here to listen.

She describes watching Joe the Vet feed Jonathan, whose blindness and blunted beak have made it difficult to find food for himself – but whose greedy hunger almost cost Joe the tip of a finger on one occasion. 

As often reported, the old boy has no difficulty mating, producing what Joe calls “a noise like a loud, harsh escape of steam from a giant battered old kettle, often rounded off with a deep oboe-like grunt.”

Sally reports that her piece was picked up “like crazy” on Twitter, the micro-blogging site.

Her website also includes an interview with the St Helena Wirebird, in which she talks about the visit she made (at two weeks’ notice) to film a documentary about St Helena, Tristan da Cunha and Ascension.

She says she can see the benefits of the island’s airport project, including medical support, work opportunities and tourism.

“But I can also appreciate the drawbacks that are perhaps difficult for outsiders to understand,” she says. “I spoke to the head girl at Prince Andrew School and she explained her reticence. She told me that the voyage on the RMS prepares you for the gentleness of the island; it gives you time to think about the journey and appreciate the remoteness the islanders’ experience. When tourists arrive on the plane they will just step off without that appreciation. I can see her point. The trouble is the airport is coming, and I’m not sure everyone is prepared for it.”

SEE ALSO: 
Carnival catcall echoes round the world – St Helena on From Our Own Correspondent
Jonathan the Tortoise on From Our Own Correspondent
Sally Kettle website
Rower Sally heads for islands (the easy way)

RMS sailing schedule runs beyond airport opening

The RMS St Helena gets under way, photographed from Munden's Road on St Helena
The RMS St Helena, departing the island in 2009

The new sailing schedule for the RMS St Helena includes two voyages beyond the planned opening of St Helena’s first airport.

And they may not be the ship’s last trips to the island, according to a statement issued after executive councillors approved the schedule.

The ship is also set to drop anchor in James Bay on the day before the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s arrival on the island on 15 October 1815.

A ten-day spell in dry dock has been booked for August 2015, and a Christmas voyage to Cape Town is scheduled for the end of the year.

The ship is set to leave Cape Town on its last scheduled voyage, number 241, on 25 March 2016, in the month after the projected opening of the airport.

It appears that there might be further voyages beyond that date, though – including to Tristan da Cunha. Previous trips to St Helena’s sister island have sold out very quickly.

A press release said: “A question had been raised about the possibility of a voyage to Tristan, but the expected demand on berths as a result of airport construction and economic development ruled this out.

“The schedule post airport opening has yet to be confirmed and possible voyages such as this will be considered nearer the time.”

Executive councillors approved the schedule after consultation with various groups on the island.

The last listed voyage, number 241, sees the ship depart Ascension on 3 April 2016, leaving James Bay four days later. It ends in Cape Town on 12 April.

The ship entered service in 1990 after being built by Hall, Russell & Company in Scotland.

Its capacity was extended in 2012 with the addition of 24 extra cabin berths, giving space for 152 passengers.

The ship broke down while heading south from the UK in 1999 and had to put into the French port of Brest for repairs, leaving passengers stranded – including one family who had been heading to the island for a wedding.

The incident intensified the battle to secure an airport for the island, which was left without deliveries of supplies.

  • Executive councillors also approved a “small” rise in passenger and freight tariffs, in line with inflation and a commitment to reduce subsidies.

SEE ALSO:
RMS St Helena lands patient at Walvis Bay and sails on
Last Biscay boogie as ship leaves UK

UK ‘doesn’t even know’ about island eco threats, say MPs

The UK has been accused by a Westminster committee of failing to protect endangered plants and creatures in its overseas territories.

The Environmental Audit Committee said the UK was not taking proper responsibility for the 517 globally threatened species in its care.

Its chairman, Joan Walley MP, said: “The UK government doesn’t even know precisely what it is responsible for, because it has failed accurately to assess and catalogue those species and habitats.

“During our inquiry, the UK government expressed vague aspirations to ‘cherish’ the environment in the overseas territories, but it was unwilling to acknowledge or to address its responsibilities under United Nations treaties.”

The EAC report reveals that the government’s environment department, Defra, has refused to allow any of its staff to visit the territories.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which has long had staff working on St Helena, estimated the UK needed to spend £80 million over  a five-year period to protect the wildlife in some of the most ecologically rich places on the planet.

During the committee hearings, St Helena was singled out for introducing controls on development, thanks to efforts to minimise the ecological impact of its new airport.

The air access project has sparked intensive efforts to study and protect the island’s wildlife, including 45 plants and 400 invertebrates that are unique to the island.

The UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum welcomed the findings of the Environmental Audit Committee.

It said: “The EAC finds that successive governments have failed to give sufficient priority to safeguarding 90% of the UK’s biodiversity.

“The present government is criticised for being unwilling to address its responsibilities despite fine words in the 2012 White Paper, The Overseas Territories: Security, Success and Sustainability.”

UKOTCF Executive Director Dr Mike Pienkowski said: “Time is not on our side and, given the level of concern expressed in the report, immediate action is required.”

In an article for the St Helena Independent, Vince Thompson writes: “It remains to be seen if the Men from the UK Ministries, who appear to be so easily confused when questioned in detail about their Overseas Territories, find the report so overpowering they will actually take action on the report’s recommendations.”

The sensitivity of island ecology was illustrated by conservationist Dave Higgins, the man writing action plans for St Helena’s conservation areas, in an interview with the Yorkshire Post.

He told the paper the “museum rarity” of the island’s ecology was both frightening and exciting.

“The 823m-high summit of Diana’s Peak, which is 50 hectares of mountain range, holds more endemic species than any European country,” he said.

“Almost half of the invertebrates living in the islands’ national parks cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

“To date conservationists know of 200 species of endemic invertebrate just in the Peaks. Some of these are reliant on a single tree species.

“Local conservationists tell me that if we lose one of our endemic plant species there could be a suite of invertebrate extinctions.

“All around these biological jewels lies the threat of non-native species and habitat loss. The island’s wonder is under constant siege.”

St Helena and Ascension appear to fare better than many of their sister territories in the Caribbean, which are under greater pressure from both tourist developments and climate change.

St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha make up one of 14 UK overseas territories. The others are the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, the British Antarctic Territory, the British Indian Ocean Territory, Gibraltar, Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos, the British Virgin Islands, the Pitcairn Islands, and the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus.

READ MORE:
Government must to more to protect biodiversity – UK Parliament website
Yorkshire ecologist now our man in St Helena – Yorkshire Post

SEE ALSO:
St Helena gets top rating for environmental protection
Secrecy leaves islands at risk of corruption, warns RSPB
MP ‘shocked’ by tales of environmental failings

Raymond and Cynthia achieve a uniform kind of fame

Click the pic of Raymond and Cynthia to find out how to order Jon Tonks's book, Empire
Click the pic of Raymond and Cynthia to find out how to order Jon Tonks’s book, Empire

Nearly a million people read The Observer newspaper. And in the final issue of 2013, they have been treated to a picture of Cynthia George and Raymond Hudson, posing in their scouting uniforms on Jamestown seafront.

The photographer, Jon Tonks, has a thing about uniforms.

The Observer says they illustrate the strangely British, but not-quite-British culture of the South Atlantic islands he features in his new book, Empire.

The picture of Raymond and Cynthia is one of the thousands Jon took for the book – 400 rolls of film in all.

During a five-year tour of the UK’s South Atlantic territories, he’s photographed firemen, police officers and the governor of the Falkland Islands in their official garb, and others besides.

Observer writer Sean O’Hagan says the book highlights “the often absurd traces of an older kind of Britishness that linger in these in-between, out-of-the-way territories”.

It also, we’re told, “evokes the everyday oddness of life” in these remnants of the British Empire.

Scouting, of course, is found all over the world, so there’s nothing odd about two Saints wearing their uniforms – Raymond as “an honorary member of the St Helena Scout Group”, and Cynthia as assistant beaver leader.

Jon, whose pictures of the territories previously appeared in the 50th anniversary issue of the iconic Sunday Times Magazine, travelled 50,000 miles in the course of his project, and spent 32 days at sea.

He visited the Falklands, St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, where he photographed two lifeboats that had been hurled up a cliff by storm seas.

The Observer’s verdict on his arduous mission: “It was worth it.”

Signed pre-launch copies of Empire can be ordered from Jon’s website, here

Click any of the thumbnails below to see larger images from Jon’s book:

SEE ALSO: ‘Nationettes’ star in Sunday Times Magazine

READ MORE: Empire, by Jon Tonks – Observer review

2013: look back on a momentous year – on camera

Gravity Rush was one of the highlights of 2013. Click to pic to see more images from the year.
Gravity Rush was one of the highlights of 2013. Click to pic to see more images from the year.

There was drought and there was a controversial election – and plenty of big celebrations, as only St Helena knows how to throw them. And Ascension and Tristan da Cunha produced a few good stories in 2013. Click on the image above to look back on a great year, in pictures. And read our review of the year here

Share a kind word: Christmas message from Governor Capes

Governor Mark Capes: spending Christmas at sea. Picture by St Helena Government
Governor Mark Capes: spending Christmas at sea. Picture by St Helena Government

St Helena is certainly getting busier… that is a phrase that I often hear these days and I have to agree with it.  The past year has flashed by, with so much happening and so much still to do.  At times, our sister islands of Ascension and Tristan da Cunha have also kept me busy during 2013.  Through it all I have enjoyed working with my colleagues to achieve the best outcomes for all three islands.

For me a highlight of 2013 was my first visit to Tristan da Cunha, an extraordinary place and the most remote inhabited island in the world. Its community of less than 300 people extend such a warm welcome to visitors and I do hope that I may visit again one day.

I also greatly enjoyed a short working visit to Cape Town, en-route to Tristan. What made an intense and quite gruelling programme enjoyable was the strong sense of being part of a united team, working hard for St Helena.  All concerned were pulling together, working well with good humour and commitment, to achieve our common objectives.  It was quite a buzz.

As always it is attitude that counts. Sir Winston Churchill once said: “Attitude is a small thing that makes a big difference.” How true that is. With a positive attitude so much can be achieved.

I’m much looking forward to the challenges ahead in 2014 and to working with “Team St Helena” to meet those challenges.

As each year comes to a close, and especially at Christmas, we pause to think of family or friends who may be with us no longer.  So while Christmas is for sharing and celebrating with our friends and families, let us also remember those that are mourning the recent loss of a loved one, as well as those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Let’s offer them a helping hand: even just a few kind words or a hug can make a big difference to someone.

This year my Christmas Day will be spent at sea. I will be on the good ship RMS St Helena, heading for Cape Town for a quick visit to London to see my family and then on to Ascension for my first visit following the recent general election there.  I know that I and my fellow passengers will be very well looked after by the superb crew on the RMS – it should be an experience to remember.

At Plantation House, Wendy and Melissa have been busy making Christmas cakes and so a rich and warm aroma of baking cakes has filled the house. The cakes were for me to deliver to the Community Care Complex, Barn View, and those in sheltered homes. The Christmas tree lights have been on in the paddock at Plantation House and, no doubt after much hard work and many rehearsals, the primary schools have presented their Advent plays.

On that happy note, Tamara and I send our very best wishes to everyone on St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha for a blessed Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.   

Governor Mark Capes
December 2013

Rower Sally heads for islands (the easy way)

Sally Kettle’s friends could not understand why she was nervous about heading out to make a film about St Helena and its sister islands.

After all, she is no stranger to the Atlantic Ocean: she has rowed across it twice.

Sally's adventures are described in a book
Sally’s adventures are described in a book

This time – even with a detour via Tristan da Cunha – the voyage aboard the RMS St Helena promised to be considerably more comfortable. With no shark attacks to worry about.

Maybe the nervousness was something to do with the fact that she only got signed up for the trip – and her first job as a TV presenter – a few days before departure.

She made the admission in a brief chat with St Helena Online, just before joining Governor Mark Capes aboard the RMS for – probably – its last-ever voyage to Tristan da Cunha.

Sally contacted the site in search of advice, and suggestions of people to talk to about Saint culture for the film. “It’s a travelogue looking at life and wildlife on the islands,” she said.

“No – not rowing there this time.”

The island odyssey is but the latest in a series of adventures that have included rowing across the Atlantic twice – the second time, with her mother.

They claimed the record for the fastest crossing by a mother-and-daughter team.

She described one of the crossings on her website:

“We faced horrendous conditions, huge seas, ferocious winds, and rain for a month. We also struggled with injuries, which led to one of the team leaving the boat and disqualifying us from the race. It was an emotional rollercoaster but we pulled together and against the odds (no rudder, a shark attack and a broken water-maker) we still crossed the finish line.

“I’ve never spent so much time in pain! From blisters to sciatica, constant muscle pain to overwhelming exhaustion, I was in pain 24 hours a day. Having said that, we made it across and arrived with smiles on our faces!”

Things were already proving challenging when the shark struck:

“Our rudder was stripped from the back of the boat by a huge wave. We jerried up a rudder with T shirts and a bucket at the end of it. And guess what? A great big shark decided to come and eat it.”

In May 2010, Sally joined the crew of a yacht in the Clipper Round the World Race, sailing between Jamaica and the UK via New York and Nova Scotia. She wrote:

“My own race had it’s fair share of disasters – a dismasting, a grounding, several injuries, a couple a which were very serious – in fact I dislocated a toe and fractured my thumb (off the back end of the Isle of White, how exotic!).”

Sally’s website says she has raised more than half a million pounds for charity.

She travelled to Padang in Sumatra with a response team from the International Shelterbox charity, handing out tents to some of the 250,000 families affected by a devastating earthquake.

She has also retraced the footsteps of WW2 Resistance heroine Nancy Wake in a demanding trek across the Pyrenees too – and yes, she’s taking her walking boots to St Helena.

She broke the news that she had landed her first TV presenting job (“Eeek!”) on the internet messaging site, Twitter, only nine days before setting off.

sally tweet job

sally tweet airportsally tweet scaredSome of Sally’s adventures are related in a book, Sally’s Odd at Sea (“Think Bridget Jones meets Moby Dick”).

As well as writing and presenting, she has qualified as a personal trainer and works as a motivational speaker.

READ MORE: www.sallykettle.com

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