Back the blue belt

By: Irene Lorenzo
Date posted: 17 August 2018

The Great British Oceans coalition channelled the flood of public concern inspired by Blue Planet II towards actions to protect four million km2 of ocean around the British Overseas Territories by 2020.

Butterfly fish shoal, st Helena

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune” (Shakespeare, Julius Caesar.) The #backthebluebelt campaign was designed to harness the tide of love and concern for the oceans, inspired by the BBC’s Blue Planet II, the most watched TV series in the UK in 2017.

265 MPs from eight political parties have signed up. A huge cross-party display of support

The Great British Oceans coalition (consisting of Marine Conservation Society, Blue Marine Foundation, Greenpeace, Pew Trusts, RSPB and ZSL) was keen that the flood of public concern inspired by the series was channelled towards a call to action that would lead to a definitive step to protect the world’s oceans.

That call was to encourage the public to urge their MPs to support the Blue Belt Charter (see below), calling on the UK Government to implement perhaps the greatest act of marine conservation ever undertaken by a government – to protect four million square kilometres of ocean in a ‘Blue Belt’ around British Overseas Territories by 2020.

The social media campaign used the hashtag #backthebluebelt to persuade viewers of Blue Planet II to tweet or email their local MP asking them to sign up to the Blue Belt Charter. This would commit their support to see to fruition the key legislation and funding that underpins the Blue Belt initiative.

The results were remarkable. During the final episode of Blue Planet II on Sunday 10 December the #backthebluebelt hashtag was being used every 1.8 seconds and someone was tweeting their MP every 7.5 seconds. Celebrity advocates such as Stephen Fry, Cara Delavingne and Richard Branson marshalled their massive Twitter followings to great effect. More than 2,000 contributors posted more than 3,000 times, creating more than 40 million impressions on Twitter and Facebook.

Whale shark

Even GB Oceans’ wildest expectations were exceeded by the number of MPs who then signed up to the Blue Belt Charter off the back of the campaign. So far, 265 MPs from eight political parties have signed up, representing a huge, cross-party display of support for the campaign. In a virtually unprecedented move for a social media driven campaign, on 13 December, the Shadow Environment Secretary went on video on Twitter to declare that GB Oceans’ ‘Back the Blue Belt’ demands would become official Labour Party policy.

If you are interested in joining the campaign, visit the website from which you can easily contact your MP. You can also see whether your MP has or hasn’t signed up yet: If your MP hasn’t already signed up, please urge them to do so! If they have, please send them a message of congratulations. The wave of public concern for the oceans is sweeping through Westminster and is breaking down any residual opposition to this wonderfully ambitious act of ocean conservation.

With the fifth largest marine estate in the world, the UK and its Overseas Territories are custodian to the largest coral atoll on Earth, globally significant populations of albatross, whales and turtles, and as many as a quarter of the penguins on the planet.

Through the actions of successive governments, the UK has demonstrated global leadership in ocean conservation. We call on the UK to reaffirm this leadership by working with the governments of the Overseas Territories to deliver on Blue Belt pledges to:

We also call on the UK to remain a leading force within those international bodies concerned with greater protection of the Polar Regions, the UN process for establishing Marine Protected Areas on the High Seas, and within the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.

This article was written by Clare Brook, CEO of Blue Marine Foundation, for our Spring 2018 membership magazine ‘Marine Conservation’. If you’d like to receive our fantastic quarterly magazine straight to your door, you can become a member from as little as £3.50 per month.

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