Today, on World Oceans Day, a new coalition of leading
marine environmental NGOs has launched to advocate for more and larger marine
reserves, a call strongly backed by the Green Party’s new marine and coastal policy.
The Green Party is the only Party in the UK to have a fully comprehensive
policy on oceans issues.

 The Marine Reserves Coalition (MRC) brings together
six UK-based organisations, working collaboratively to secure the designation
of marine reserves – fully protected, no-take marine areas closed to all
extractive and potentially damaging activities. Members of the MRC are calling
for the UK government to commit to establishing representative networks of
marine reserves that:

  • Are fully protected;
  • Cover at least 30% of
    seas under UK jurisdiction;
  • Are managed
    effectively; and
  • Protect outstanding
    areas for biodiversity in their entirety.

The biodiversity and
productivity of the world’s oceans are diminishing at an alarming rate.
Globally 90% of large fish species, such as sharks, tuna and swordfish, have
disappeared in the last few decades. 28 species of mammals and fish are
considered to be threatened in UK seas alone and only 11 of the 58 main
commercial fish stocks found around the British Isles are known to be in a
healthy state. Many marine habitats, ranging from the species-rich rocky reefs
of Europe and the coral reefs of the tropics, to the fragile ecosystems of the deep
sea, have been fundamentally altered by destructive fishing practices and other
human activities.

 Despite commitments
from the 193 countries that are Parties to the Convention on Biological
Diversity, to change course and safeguard marine life by creating protected
areas, there has been limited implementation and ambition from the world’s
governments. Only 1.42% of the planet’s oceans are nominally protected as ‘Marine
Protected Areas’ and only a tiny fraction of these are Marine Reserves (fully
protected areas, closed to extractive and potentially damaging activities).

 Like national parks
on land, Marine Reserves have been proven to protect vulnerable species and
habitats, as well as build the oceans’ resilience to significant emerging
threats such as climate change. When established and managed properly, Marine
Reserves can benefit people as well as the environment, by helping to rebuild
depleted fish stocks that millions of people worldwide depend on for both
income and protein.

 Action is needed now
to allow the marine environment to recover from decades of overexploitation and
habitat destruction, and to ensure the oceans are managed sustainably. An
extensive, coherent and representative network of fully protected Marine
Reserves is an essential part of the range of measures needed to achieve this.
In UK national waters, only three sites – measuring less than 0.005% of UK seas
– are protected by law in this way.


Caroline Lucas said:

As the only political party in
the UK with a comprehensive policy on marine and coastal issues, the Green
Party welcomes the launch of this manifesto from the Marine Reserves Coalition.
We fully endorse their scientifically-supported call for at least 30% full
protection for waters around the UK and overseas, both as a means to protect
our fragile ocean environment, but also to preserve fish stocks and fisheries
livelihoods. The current and previous governments have made a shambles of
marine conservation around British coasts, resulting in reduced catches and
income for the fishing industry, as well as the destruction of marine
biodiversity. The North Sea is now one of the most degraded marine ecosystems on the planet,
and it is our generation that will pay the price if we don’t act now. Unlike
the current government, which seems happy to compromise on scientific advice
and maintain the status quo, we believe we need to properly protect our seas if
they are to have a sustainable future.


 To read the Green Party’s Marine and Coastal Policy


For more information on the Marine Reserves Coalition


For more info on World Oceans Day see: