A new coalition of leading marine environmental NGOs has launched today, on World Oceans Day, to advocate for increased protection for the fragile ocean environment.
The call strongly echoes that made in the Green Party's new marine and coastal policy.
The Marine Reserves Coalition (MRC) brings together six UK-based organisations (1), working collaboratively to secure the designation of marine reserves - fully protected, no-take marine areas closed to all extractive and potentially damaging activities.
Members of the MRC are calling for the UK government to commit to establishing representative networks of marine reserves that:
- Are fully protected
- Cover at least 30% of seas under UK jurisdiction
- Are managed effectively
- Protect outstanding areas for biodiversity in their entirety
Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, said:
"As the only political party in the UK with a comprehensive policy on marine and coastal issues, the Green Party welcomes the launch of this manifesto from the Marine Reserves Coalition (2).
"We fully endorse their scientifically-supported call for at least 30% full protection for waters around the UK and overseas, both as a means to protect our fragile ocean environment, but also to preserve fish stocks and fisheries livelihoods.
"The current and previous governments have made a shambles of marine conservation around British coasts, resulting in reduced catches and income for the fishing industry, as well as the destruction of marine biodiversity.
"The North Sea is now one of the most degraded marine ecosystems on the planet, and it is our generation that will pay the price if we don't act now.
"Unlike the current government, which seems happy to compromise on scientific advice and maintain the status quo, we believe we need to properly protect our seas if they are to have a sustainable future."
The biodiversity and productivity of the world's oceans are diminishing at an alarming rate.
Globally 90% of large fish species, such as sharks, tuna and swordfish, have disappeared in the last few decades.
28 species of mammals and fish are considered to be threatened in UK seas alone and only 11 of the 58 main commercial fish stocks found around the British Isles are known to be in a healthy state.
Many marine habitats, ranging from the species-rich rocky reefs of Europe and the coral reefs of the tropics, to the fragile ecosystems of the deep sea, have been fundamentally altered by destructive fishing practices and other human activities.
Despite commitments from the 193 countries that are Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, to change course and safeguard marine life by creating protected areas, there has been limited implementation and ambition from the world's governments.
Only 1.42% of the planet's oceans are nominally protected as ‘Marine Protected Areas' and only a tiny fraction of these are Marine Reserves (fully protected areas, closed to extractive and potentially damaging activities).
Action is needed now to allow the marine environment to recover from decades of overexploitation and habitat destruction, and to ensure the oceans are managed sustainably.
The MRC believes that an extensive, coherent and representative network of fully protected Marine Reserves is an essential part of the range of measures needed to achieve this. In UK national waters, only three sites - measuring less than 0.005% of UK seas - are protected by law in this way.
Notes for Editors
1) The Marine Reserves Coalition comprises the Blue Marine Foundation, ClientEarth, Greenpeace, the Marine Conservation Society, the Pew Environment Group and the Zoological Society of London.
2) To read the Green Party's Marine and Coastal Policy, visit: http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/mc