Pitcairn Islands - Marine conservation

Catching spiny lobster - Pitcairn Islands

Given their extremely isolated location in the South Pacific and difficulties of access, the marine habitats of the Pitcairn Islands are some of the least known ecosystems of the UK’s Overseas Territories. However, the pressure on the Pitcairn’s marine resources is mounting. Global fishing pressures on migratory species, especially tuna and billfish, have resulted in commercial fishing fleets increasingly approaching the Pitcairn Government to lease their fishing rights. And, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) has proposed that the Pitcairn community develop commercial reef fisheries for export to neighbouring Mangareva in French Polynesia. At present, there is not enough scientific evidence to make informed decisions about how to manage these valuable marine resources sustainably.

Why we are there

Through this project, ZSL will work to underpin the scientific evidence-base for Pitcairn’s marine environment, developing a marine management plan with the Pitcairn Island Community and UK Government, enhancing tourism opportunities and increasing global awareness of Pitcairn’s incredible marine biodiversity.

Additionally, as a member of the Marine Reserves Coalition  and the Pitcairn Environment Group, ZSL is actively supporting the Pitcairn Island Community and Pew Charitable Trusts’ proposal for the establishment of a marine reserve in Pitcairn’s waters.

Key achievements and goals

This project began in September 2013 so is in its early stages. ZSL’s Heather Koldewey went on an expedition to Pitcairn in November/December with project collaborator, Professor Terry Dawson, to initiate the project with the community.

Through the development of an ecosystem-based management plan, ZSL will help the Pitcairn Government to make informed decisions about the sustainable management of Pitcairn’s marine resources.

Working in partnership with the Pitcairn Island Community, we will aim to enhance tourism and raise public awareness of the unique and diverse wildlife of the Islands. This will be further aided by the establishment of a marine reserve; a step that we hope to see the UK Government take, in line with the wishes of the Pitcairn Island Council and Community.



Project information

Key species

  • Reef fish
  • Sharks
  • Hawksbill and green turtles
  • Whales
  • Dolphins

People involved

  • Heather Koldewey is the ZSL lead for the Pitcairn Islands project.
  • Ana Pinto, Discovery and Learning Outreach Officer, is supporting the outreach components of the project. 
  • Fiona Llewellyn coordinates the activities of the Marine Reserves Coalition and ZSL’s support for the proposed Pitcairn Marine Reserve.

Partners and sponsors

  • University of Dundee
  • Sea-Scope
  • Marine Reserves Coalition (supported by Selfridges Project Ocean)
  • Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Pitcairn Island Council
  • Kindly funded by The Darwin Initiative