Can the Marine Bill save our seas?

Posted by jossc — 3 April 2008 at 2:58pm - Comments

Will the Marine Bill ensure that the North Sea gets the marine reserves it needs?

Today sees the long overdue publication of the Draft Marine Bill. The Bill presents a key opportunity not just to improve the management of our national waters, but to begin the concerted action that is needed to protect marine biodiversity and reverse the decline in our fish stocks.

But the Marine Bill is only a tool, not the finished product.

"If commercial fishing is not heavily regulated, there will be little left to harvest in the seas outside of the lowest levels of the food chain. So you don’t need to worry about these problems as long as your children like plankton stew"
Daniel Pauly, Professor of Fisheries, University of British Columbia

If the Marine Bill, when it becomes law, doesn't result in the rapid creation of a large network of no-take Marine Reserves - national parks at sea - in UK waters, then it will have failed. The science is clear. To be a success the Marine Bill must lead to changes in the management of our marine environment which enable fish stocks to recover from decades of over-fishing. To do that, it needs to pave the way for marine protection that includes a network of fully protected Marine Reserves where fishing is banned, so stocks begin to have the opportunity to replenish themselves.

During the legislative process, Greenpeace is urging all MPs to ensure that the Marine Bill achieves the objective of creating these large scale Marine Reserves. Today, far less than a tenth of one percent of UK waters are protected in this way. The success or failure of the Marine Bill must be measured against the speed with which this shameful figure is dramatically increased to deliver significant marine protection.

Only large scale no-take Marine Reserves will permit the recovery of fish stocks, biodiversity conservation and climate change adaptation by saltwater species. A statement signed by more than 250 of Europe's marine scientists concludes that:

"Fully Protected Marine Reserves are essential for conservation, are necessary for the implementation of effective management of the sea, and have important benefits to scientific understanding of the environment ... They are an essential tool in the package of measures needed to arrest the degradation of European seas and bring about their restoration."

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution agrees, stating in its 2004 report that:

"Given the level of uncertainty, the heavy exploitation of commercial species, plus the need to manage risk in the face of large-scale environmental perturbations such as climate change ... our view is that 30% of UK waters should be no-take reserves in order to deliver the kind of recovery that is needed to protect the environment and make fish populations sustainable in the long run."

As a signatory to the OSPAR Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) it is already committed to taking the steps needed to deliver a network of marine protected areas, but so far has shown little political will to do so. Over the next few weeks we'll find out whether anything has really changed,and whether the government is now serious about establishing significant UK Marine Reserves.

The Draft Bill is open for further consultation until 26th June.

Marine Reserves: The Roadmap to Recovery

Greenpeace is calling for a network of Marine Reserves covering 40 per cent of the world's oceans. You can find out more by downloading our fuller briefings (Adobe PDF format):


About Joss

Bass player and backing vox in the four piece beat combo that is the UK Greenpeace Web Experience. In my 6 years here I've worked on almost every campaign and been fascinated by them all to varying degrees. Just now I'm working on Peace and Oceans - which means getting rid of our Trident nuclear weapons system and creating large marine reserves so that marine life can get some protection from overfishing.

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