Aerial sea photo Ruth Troughton

It's party (conference) season

4 minute read

Brendon Queiroz

Brendon Queiroz, Public Affairs Officer

20 Oct 2023

This month our team attended both the Conservative and Labour party conferences to ensure the ocean was firmly on the agenda.

We held events with fellow environmental charities, CHEM Trust and Wildlife & Countryside Link, focusing on the issue of UK water pollution beyond the well-known sewage crisis.

We also partnered with the Conservative Friends of the Ocean (CFOTO) as part of the Great Blue Ocean (GBO) coalition to hold an evening reception celebrating the success of the Blue Belt Programme and discuss what we do next.

Brendon and Fiona Party Conference 2023

Brendon, Public Affairs Officer (left) and Fiona, Public Affairs Manager

Credit: John Thompson/Mousetrap Media

Chemical events

Our joint event with CHEM Trust at the Conservative Party Conference was an open discussion with Sarah Jackson, professional windsurfer and Marine Conservation Society Ocean Ambassador, Professor Alistair Boxall from the University of York and Heather MacFarlane, Senior Project Manager at Fidra, on the panel.

Our speakers raised findings from recent studies on UK rivers and the need for UK Government policy changes to reach a circular and safer economy.

Sarah, Alistair and Heather - CHEM Trust event

Credit: John Thompson/Mousetrap Media

As a water user who has experienced the impacts of sewage pollution first-hand, Sarah Jackson contributed a personal aspect to the conversation and joined in the call on UK Government to introduce a robust UK Chemical Strategy and ban non-essential uses of PFAS.

Everyday you go into the office and expect it to be a clean and safe environment – I wish I could expect the same about my office.

Sarah Jackson, Ocean Ambassador

At the Labour conference in Liverpool, we held another event centred around water quality with CHEM Trust and Wildlife & Countryside Link, supported by SERA.

This panel event addressed the harmful impacts of chemical pollution on Britain’s coasts and rivers and the need for greater protections. Deborah Meaden, one of our Ocean Ambassadors, contributed a quote to the discussion:

“Chemical pollution is fuelling the nature crisis. The effects of long-lasting chemicals in the environment are only just coming to light - I was shocked to hear that all otters in a recent study were found to contain 'forever chemicals’ in their livers.

Businesses want to do the right thing, but we must level the playing field. Industry, people and wildlife cannot flourish without a healthy ocean.”

The UK Government must turn the tide of harmful chemicals in our water. We need stronger protections to prevent them from entering the environment in the first place.

Deborah Meaden, Ocean Ambassador
Labour Party Conference chemicals event

Francesca Ginley, Lisa Trickett, Ruth Jones MP, and Rachel Salvidge

Credit: Amber Brown

We were joined by Ruth Jones MP, Shadow Minister for Environmental Protections and Animal Welfare, Rachel Salvidge, an environmental journalist and co-founder of Watershed Investigations, and Francesca Ginley, Policy and Advocacy Manager at the Marine Conservation Society.

The event was a great opportunity to discuss this crucial issue with a range of audiences, to hear the thoughts from a Shadow Minister and find out what a Labour Government would do to address the chemical emergency.

Celebrating our Great Blue Ocean

There was also a focus on international projects, with a GBO and Conservative Friends of the Ocean event raising awareness of the work carried out so far and the success of the Blue Belt Programme.

Fiona Thomas, Brendon Queiroz, Penny Mordaunt MP, Adrian Gahan, Therese Coffey MP - GBO event

Fiona, Brendon, Penny Mordaunt MP, Adrian Gahan & Therese Coffey MP

CFOTO Founder, Marc Nykolyszyn, and Adrian Gahan from Blue Marine Foundation discussed the work of GBO and our recent campaign calling for the designation of a South Atlantic Marine Wildlife Sanctuary to protect whale, seal and penguin species.

Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary of State, Therese Coffey MP, spoke about the importance of our ocean and how the Government has provided further marine protections.

Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt MP, also praised the programme, acknowledged the importance of our ocean and encouraged the continuing of work to protect marine environments.

Advocacy meetings

The Cayman Islands have recently joined the Blue Belt Programme, which we met with Dr Tasha Ebanks Garcia, UK Representative in the Cayman Islands, and GBO colleagues to discuss.

GBO Cayman Islands meeting

Steve McIntosh, Dr Tasha Ebanks Garcia, Adrian Gahan, Brendon and Fiona

Credit: Dr Tasha Ebanks Garcia

This programme is a great opportunity and success for communities and for our ocean, as it aims to assist the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) with the protection and sustainable management of marine environments. The GBO coalition will continue to support the UKOTs and advocate for the enhancement of marine protection within them.

Next steps

This year’s party conferences were both productive and encouraging. Whilst we took steps forward, our work isn’t over yet. We will continue to work with UK Government and political parties across the board to push for policies and action to be set in place, providing meaningful ocean protections that will ensure a healthier, cleaner and better protected marine environment that we can all enjoy.

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