Ocean policy promises hit rough seas

Date posted: 10 May 2019

The UK’s failure to protect and restore our seas has been condemned by Environment Links UK, a major coalition of conservation and environmental groups, including the Marine Conservation Society.

© Graeme Cresswell

It is vital that UK governments set legally binding targets which are ambitious and rapid. Time is running out for the waters and wildlife that we love.

Chris Tuckett,
MCS Director of Programmes

It follows publication yesterday evening from Defra and devolved administrations, of a gloomy UK Marine Strategy. This is a huge wake-up call for governments across the UK to take decisive action, set ambitious legally-binding targets and save our wildlife from further devastation.

Birds, fish and seabed habitats are all classified as ‘red’ status and marine mammals are classified as ‘amber’. Seabird populations as a whole have plunged by 22% in the last 40 years, with some species, such as kittiwake, down by 60%. At the same time marine litter and invasive species have rocketed. The UK has failed to deliver on 11 out of 15 indicators needed for healthy oceans.

Chris Tuckett, MCS Director of Programmes, and Chair of Wildlife and Countryside Link’s Marine Group, said: “Such a wholescale failure to meet our own targets for healthy oceans must be a wake-up call on behalf of our seas. If our oceans are ever to become healthy again it is vital that all governments in the UK set legally-binding targets which are ambitious and rapid. Time is running out for the waters and wildlife that we love.”

What is the UK Marine strategy?

Yesterday’s announcement launches a 6-week consultation on the Marine Strategy, which is the key UK framework to help our seas recover and become well-managed by the target date of 2020. The consultation document reports on progress for key marine species and habitats. The results plainly show just how the UK’s governments are failing to ensure a healthy condition of our seas, with the 2020 target likely to be missed for all but 4 of the 15 indicators.

MCS and members within the Environment Links UK coalition are urging the governments across the UK to up their ambition on the targets and timelines for helping our seas to recover, and more effectively resource the delivery of the UK Marine Strategy, including compliance, enforcement and monitoring.

An overview of the UK Marine Strategy announcement can be found here.

Actions you can take

  1. Browse Marine Protected Areas
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Did you know?…

To the shelf limits, Scotland has 61% of UK waters, of which 23% are now in existing or new ‘marine protected areas’

Over 170 parliamentarians from across the political spectrum signed up to our Marine Charter calling for a network of ‘marine protected areas’ in UK Seas