Scottish seascape Sue Ranger

Will the UK Government protect 30% of its seas following COP15?

1 minute read

On Ocean Action Day, we joined Blue Marine Foundation and Whale and Dolphin Conservation at COP15 in Montreal, to highlight how important properly managed Marine Protected Areas are.

On the final day of COP15, promising steps were made with an agreement that 30% of sea, as well as 30% of land, are to be fully protected by 2030. This is touted as being the biodiversity equivalent of the Paris Agreement on climate change, where the goal is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees celsius.


COP15 sign in Montreal

Credit: Brendon Queiroz

While we are pleased with this outcome at COP15, we still need the UK to pick up the pace on delivery of ocean protection at home.

The UK Government claims that 38% of our seas around the UK are in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The reality is very different, as most of these sites are little more than lines on a map - with even the most damaging activities, like bottom-trawling, allowed.

This week, nearly 200 countries committed to protecting 30% of land and sea by 2030. This is an important moment. A rallying cry for global ambition. Now, the global community has eight years to deliver. Focus must turn from quantity to quality - and to delivery at home. Meaningfully managed Marine Protected Areas are one of the most effective tools we have to fix the current nature crisis and reverse biodiversity loss.

Anna Gelderd, Marine Conservation Society's Head of Strategic Advocacy

However, it's not just fishing activity that is hampering the recovery of Marine Protected Areas. Pollution of our seas is playing an increasing role in biodiversity loss, with plastics, microplastics, raw sewage and ‘forever chemicals’ all building up over time and creating a toxic soup.

In 2018, Defra set out to publish a Chemicals Strategy to curb pollution but nearly 5 years on, no strategy has been published.

We're hoping that the momentum from COP15 will encourage the UK Government to act urgently on their promises at home in order to achieve what was signed in Montreal.

Only time will tell if the Government follow through with their promises on MPAs, but with the climate and nature crisis intensifying, it is of paramount importance that the biodiversity of our seas is truly protected.