By Sarah Ward
Living Seas Officer
Today, The Wildlife Trusts publish a new report that sets a vision for our marine environment post Brexit. The underlying message of the report is that we want a healthy, wildlife-rich future for our marine environment, as not only is this of huge value in its own right; it is also of fundamental importance for human health and wellbeing, as well as our economy.
Currently, many of the protective measures for our marine environment come from regulation set out by the European Union; the UK Government will need to ensure these laws are safeguarded, as promised in the Withdrawal Bill. In addition to this, the UK’s departure from the EU offers an opportunity to build on – and improve – these existing protective measures and management approaches.
The key ask of the report is for the UK Government to create Regional Sea Plans which meet the needs of both people and nature. These plans should:
- Involve people
- Restore nature
- Meet targets
- Minimise harm
- Stay sustainable
- Plan long-term
With this in mind, five key challenges have been identified:
1. Securing protected areas at sea
Here in Sussex, we now have six Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) which are protected under the Marine & Coastal Access Act (2009). However, in order to achieve an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas, we would like a further four MCZs to be designated in our Sussex seas.
2. Making fishing sustainable
Whilst significant efforts have been made to recover fish stocks in UK waters, there are still many commercial species in decline. For example, did you know that the Common Skate, so called because it was once widespread and abundant, has now all but disappeared from the English Channel and has been classified as ‘Critically Endangered’. The species, pictured in the centre of the below photo, taken in Hove in the 1920s, is now only occasionally seen in Sussex waters.
Photo by kind permission of Prof. Callum Roberts
3. Ensuring development is sustainable
The English Channel is an incredibly busy stretch of water, with the Strait of Dover being the busiest shipping lane in the world. Other uses include fishing, windfarms, gravel extraction and recreational use, all of which compete for use of the sea. Local planning is imperative to ensure there is space for wildlife to recover as well as providing certainty to marine industries.
4. Eliminating Pollution
Marine pollution takes on many forms, from large, visible debris defacing our coastline, to invisible chemicals and contaminants which eventually make their way into the sea from further inshore. Not only are these directly damaging to wildlife, they also have adverse effects on human health. Education and awareness is important at a local level, but legislation and enforcement will be fundamental to tackling this multi-faceted issue.
Beach litter on Worthing seafront
5.Inspiring and Connecting People
Sadly, there is a disconnect between everyday human activities and the long-term impacts of our actions. At Sussex Wildlife Trust, we are working to increase understanding of the importance of marine ecosystems and the natural services the sea provides for us. In Sussex, we’re incredibly lucky to have a long stretch of coastline; we want the residents of our counties to understand and value a healthy and wildlife-rich sea.
The new report by The Wildlife Trusts, The way back to Living Seas, is published today, Wednesday 25th October, and will be presented to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Dr Thérèse Coffey MP at a marine round table being held on board Research Vessel Cefas Endeavour on the Thames in London this afternoon. A pdf can be downloaded here.