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 waters of Pitcairn are under increasing pressure from commercial fishing fleets. 

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

In September 2013, ZSL, in partnership with the University of Dundee and Sea-Scope, began a three-year Darwin funded project to underpin the scientific evidence-base for Pitcairn’s marine environment. The project will result in a management plan for Pitcairn’s waters that is ecosystem-based and sustainable. Working with the Pitcairn Island Community and the UK government, the plan will be used to inform and enhance tourism opportunities and increase global awareness of Pitcairn’s incredible marine biodiversity.

Additionally, as leaders of the Marine Reserves Coalition ZSL is working for the designation of the Pitcairn Marine Reserve.

Key achievements and goals

World's largest marine reserve announced by UK government!

In March 2015, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne, announced in the Budget that "the government intends to proceed with designation of a marine protected area around Pitcairn". This decision initiates the process of creating a fully protected marine reserve, extending from 12 nautical miles offshore of Pitcairn Island to the full 200 nautical mile limit of the Territory's waters, encompassing over 830,000 square kilometres of ocean, an area about 3.5 times the size of the UK.

Pitcairn Island's marine life
Pitcairn Island's marine life

  • To find out more about the Pitcairn Islands, and our work there, check out our Pitcairn blog series, by ZSL’s Head of Marine and Freshwater, Heather Koldewey.

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