It’s a spearfishing and diver’s paradise, and home to some of the largest marlin, tuna and dorado on the planet. Ascension Island is an undersea Jurassic Park.
“You’d expect to see some sort of control tower up on the mountain, you know, and dinosaurs walking around or something,” Colin Chester laughs. “It’s a bit far-fetched, but there’s definitely dinosaurs in the deep there.”
Chester is one of the, if not the first spearfisherman to “end up on the rock”, as he puts it – the rock being Ascension Island, a lone volcanic island in the equatorial South Atlantic Ocean. His wonderment the tiny island and its natural treasures seems as fresh as if he had only arrived a few days ago.
Ascension Island is one of the United Kingdom’s overseas territories, and was recently chosen for marine reserve status as a protected area off limits to commercial fishing. At over 90,000 square miles – approximately the size of the United Kingdom itself – BBC News reported two Members of Parliament describing the planned reserve as “the biggest conservation commitment by any government ever”.
By Chester’s estimation this Jurassic Park of the ocean has no equal, and demands protection because it is so unique. “There’s no other place like it in earth,” he declares. “It’s unbelievable.”
“When you get in to see those big fish,” Chester says excitedly, “you know, for the first time, it’s like ‘whoof!’. You’re just like, ‘wow!’. Even for me. I mean, you never get used to it.” Monster marlin and other gigantic sea creatures have that effect on even the most seasoned spearfishermen.
The island is also a major haven and breeding ground for giant Green Sea Turtles and seabirds.
“Of course what we have is so special out there. And this is what we try to protect. We want to protect it. We want to protect our marine environment and marine species offshore.”
The official designation of the island and surrounding waters is expected to take place in 2017 and will make it the largest marine reserve in the Atlantic Ocean.