Seascape Scotland UK Mark Kirkland

A healthy planet needs a healthy ocean. But right now ocean ecosystems that regulate our climate are under threat. We must take urgent action.

We must act now to not only protect our ocean, but restore it too – so that it can help protect us against the devastating impacts of climate change.

Our damaging impact

In the UK, we have destroyed 90% of our seagrass beds. These important plants, once common around our shores, absorb carbon faster than the rainforests.

Other carbon-storing habitats, like saltmarshes and native oyster beds, are being destroyed at similarly alarming rates.

Meanwhile, we pollute our ocean with plastic and man-made chemicals. This is one of the five key drivers of the current biodiversity crisis.

Plastic and chemical pollution is affecting our marine wildlife, from their metabolic rates, to their reproduction and survival all of which impacts our ocean’s carbon cycle. At the same time, plastics are made from oil and gas and so their production adds to carbon emissions.

Snakelocks Anemone on Seagrass Georgie Bull

Credit: Georgie Bull

Global targets

The UK is a signatory to the Paris Agreement. The central aim of this agreement is to keep the global temperature rise this century well below 2 oC above pre-industrial levels and increase our efforts to limit this even further, to 1.5 oC.

Global warming above this level would wipe out entire ecosystems and cause irreversible damage. We need an urgent race to net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases to save ourselves and the planet before it is too late.

We must be ambitious to achieve this goal. We know what we must do and we still have a little time – about 10 years. To enable our ocean to help us avoid climate breakdown, we must radically improve the way we use and protect it, starting now. Nothing short of transformative change will do.

Octopus on seabed, Scotland - SCOTLAND: The Big Picture

Credit: SCOTLAND: The Big Picture

What can we do?

To save the ocean, we must decarbonise our economies and bring our carbon emissions down to net-zero (carbon neutral) as soon as possible – we must urgently invest in our capacity to produce renewal energy sources as an alternative to fossil fuels.

The ocean can help us make significant emissions cuts needed to keep global warming below 1.5oC, if we:

  • Rewild large swathes of our seabed, to protect and restore marine and coastal habitats and marine wildlife populations, and to increase the ocean’s ability to lock away millions of tonnes of ‘blue carbon’ and ‘fish carbon’
  • Reduce our plastic and chemical footprint to improve the ocean’s health
  • Invest in developing truly sustainable (or climate and nature positive) fisheries that are less reliant on fossil fuels and don’t overfish or damage the seabed, and, better managed and innovative aquaculture
  • Ensure that everyone understands the crucial role the ocean plays in helping us fight climate change so we can all be much kinder in how we treat it.

80

%

of the seafood we eat in the UK is made up of just 5 species. Why not try something new?

55

%

of carbon stored in the environment is captured by marine ecosystems

93

%

of global fish stocks are either fully, or over-exploited