Last week I met two islanders from Pitcairn; Melva Warren Evans and Simon Young.
We met in London and I asked them about their hopes for the Pitcairn protected marine area which their community wants to see the UK government establish.
Melva was born on Pitcairn and is one of the descendents of the crew of the Bounty. Simon moved to Pitcairn in his 30s.
I was interested in what they made of London – it was raining when we met! Simon said that he noticed that the architecture was more beautiful than he remembered it and that he said that he thought that the streets felt safer – that’s interesting. Melva was on her first visit and she remarked on the small streets and the fact that lots of names were familiar because it felt a little like stepping back into her old school textbooks.
Melva and Simon make up 4% of the Pitcairn population of 50. I’ve spent time on a few small islands and I was interested to check whether what I had been told, that the whole island community favoured the approach of a protected area, was actually true. Both told me that after an all-island discussion about the issues there had been no doubt, and no dissent, over the way forward (though Melva said that she couldn’t speak for Isobel’s views – Isobel is aged three!).
It is quite unusual for 50 people all to agree about anything. And small islands are often places of dissent, in my experience. But I got the strong impression, from both Simon and Melva, that the Pitcairn islanders really do feel that the seas around their islands are of exceptional global importance – an importance that they themselves knew but which was confirmed and documented by recent scientific studies.
Also, Melva told me that she hoped that the protection of the wildlife riches would allow eco-tourism to be established on Pitcairn and that this would ensure the future of the human community there. Melva told me that if I were on Pitcairn now I would see lots of fish in the clear waters, I’d be certain to see turtles in the harbour and I might see Sperm Whales offshore. We could go fishing and catch silver Drummer Fish which we could then fry and eat.
Today, Simon and Melva are in Marseille at the 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress. They both told me that they wanted to listen and to learn but I hope they’ll be doing quite a lot of talking too. If they speak to the delegates at the congress with the same clarity and passion with which they spoke to me then they will win a lot of friends and influence a lot of people.
In a way, topmost amongst the people that I hope they will influence are the British civil servants from Defra and the Foreign Office who will be attending. The UK could move quickly to do what the Pitcairn islanders, a united community, want them to do and create the largest Marine Protected Area in the world around Pitcairn Island. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? And that’s what I want William Hague to do too.
Come on Mr Hague! You can create the largest marine protected area in the world very quickly if you put your mind to it. This would be popular (on Pitcairn and back here in the UK), cheap and, most importantly, the right thing to do. Why not get on and do it – how about now!
If you agree and have a Twitter account then why not tweet the Foreign Secretary at @WilliamJHague – you could send him the link to this blog. And if you are on Facebook then please show your support for Simon and Melva by ‘liking’ the Protect Pitcairn page (click here to find it).