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The Old Man and the Sea: Reconstructing the History of Ocean Life around Ascension Island

Burns, Polly (2018) The Old Man and the Sea: Reconstructing the History of Ocean Life around Ascension Island. MSc by research thesis, University of York.

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In 2016, the UK government announced plans for a large-scale Marine Protected Area (MPA) around Ascension Island, a UK Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic. Legal designation is expected in 2019 and research is underway to inform its management. To establish accurate baselines of marine life and assess change over time, extensive historical sources were examined. One hundred and thirty-nine interviews were also conducted to identify perceptions of change in the marine environment by past and present Ascension Island inhabitants. Historical sources indicate seabird and turtle populations declined substantially following human settlement, and despite recent population recoveries, pre-settlement abundance has not been reached. Reported fish abundance was high and remained relatively consistent throughout the historical references, but residents have noticed recent changes, notably in fishing effort, declines in yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), and increases of Galapagos sharks (Carcharhinus galapagensis). Two shark attacks occurred in 2017, with their increased aggression completely new to most interviewees. However, previous periods of high shark abundance with threatening behaviour were noted, including a likely shark attack in 1879. Overall, Ascension appears to have largely avoided depletion of fish stocks from commercial fishing pressure, but recent changes highlight the need for precautionary management with strong protection to safeguard the island’s extraordinary assets.

Item Type: Thesis (MSc by research)
Related URLs:
Academic Units: The University of York > Environment (York)
Depositing User: Miss Polly Burns
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2018 16:36
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2018 16:36
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/21189

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