The Darwin Initiative Blog

Insights and personal musings from the world of biodiversity conservation and development. For more info on the Darwin Initiative see

Ascension Island’s new CITES Ordinance receives Category 1 status

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Ascension Island Green Turtle Cover Up, Credit: Sam Weber, AIG Conservation Department

We hope you enjoyed our first peek into our upcoming CITES CoP17-themed newsletter! In her article, Learning about trends in the illegal ivory trade to inform decision making on elephants, Dr. Fiona Underwood discussed the legacy of her project and its impact on decision making.

In this next article, Dr. Nicola Weber of the Ascension Island Government Conservation and Fisheries Department discusses work under various Darwin Plus projects, a scheme that funds environmental projects in the UK Overseas Territories. These projects have helped develop the legal framework for wildlife trade on Ascension Island, and the Island’s fascinating history highlights the transformative power of robust legal protection.

Over the past 4 years, through projects funded by the Darwin Initiative and with support and expertise from overseas partners, Ascension Island Government Conservation and Fisheries Department (AIGCD) has undertaken a major strategic planning exercise. This has resulted in the development of a National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP), a scientific roadmap for the designation of an evidence-based marine protected area at Ascension Island, and the enactment of four Ordinances relating to the protection of Ascension’s biodiversity. These can all be accessed here:

The most recent piece of legislation to be enacted is the Control of Trade in Endangered Species Ordinance 2015 that has just received Category 1 status from the CITES Secretariat. This Ordinance makes provision for the regulation of trade in endangered species by Ascension Island Government. While the import and export of species listed by CITES occurs very infrequently at Ascension Island, having the legislation in place provides the legal framework to ensure that this remains the case. Ascension Island is famous for the green turtles Chelonia mydas (CITES listing: Appendix 1) that nest upon its beaches and until the 1920s provided fresh meat for residents and passing ships.


Credit: Ascension Island Heritage Society

Now, over 70 years after legal protection and the cessation of commercial turtle harvesting, the average number of green turtle clutches deposited annually at Ascension Island has increased six fold since monitoring began in 1977, from approximately 3,700 to 23,700 clutches per annum. This highlights the need for the robust legal protection of threatened species and shows that with the correct measures and conservation actions in place, population declines can be reversed.

by Dr. Nicola Weber,  Ascension Island Government Conservation and Fisheries Department


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