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Government and the public urged to help turn the tide for our struggling seas on World Oceans Day

8 June 2020

Ocean charities and organisations[1] including Greenpeace, Marine Conservation Society, Surfers Against Sewage, Whale and Dolphin Conservation and WWF are calling for a sea change in ambition in Government marine policy to restore our marine environment by 2030. The calls come in a new ‘Ocean Recovery Manifesto’ launched today, World Oceans Day 2020 (8 June), by the Wildlife and Countryside Link coalition. The organisations are also launching a photo competition for the public to show how much our seas mean to them, and help raise the issue up the political agenda.

Our ocean is suffocating, with overuse, pollution and climate change all causing severe declines in marine habitats and wildlife. The group welcomed the Government’s action for our seas so far, with designation of Marine Protected Areas, its new seabird action plan, and its strong leadership in the Global Ocean Alliance, but highlighted the scale of change needed to achieve healthy seas around our own shores.

UK Governments have a legal target to achieve healthy seas by 2020, but in 2019 our waters failed to meet 11 out of 15 indicators of good sea health. Ocean campaigners in the Wildlife and Countryside Link coalition want the Government to take legal and practical action now, including fully protecting 30% of our waters, to get English seas healthy again. A first step should be the swift designation of Highly Protected Marine Areas around England, as recommended by a government-commissioned report published today.

Chris Tuckett, of the Marine Conservation Society and Chair of the Wildlife and Countryside Link Marine Group, said: ‘Our ocean is vital to the health of all of us. It is the lifeblood of the planet, producing more than half of the air we breathe, food and medicines, including the first experimental drug trialed for covid-19. But the ocean that we rely on is in trouble and without help it won’t be able to support future generations. This World Oceans Day we’re asking the Government to up its ambition for our seas ahead of COP26 and give the global leadership we need for our ocean starting on our own doorstep.’

Alec Taylor, Head of Marine Policy at WWF and Vice-Chair of the Wildlife and Countryside Link Marine Group said: ‘As we head into the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the Government has an unmissable opportunity to deliver a genuine blue recovery - but it must match its global ocean ambitions with action here at home on our own shores. Ocean Recovery is an investment in the UK’s future, supporting jobs, tackling climate change and restoring nature. We know this vision is achievable, but only if we take bold action now.’

Chris Butler-Stroud, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Chief Executive, said: ‘All of us, including Government, need to grasp that the ocean is the Earth’s second lung, giving us every other breath we take and removing harmful carbon from our atmosphere. Whales are our allies in combating this climate emergency and time is running out. We need to restore the ocean and allow their numbers to recover to levels that existed before industrial scale whaling and fishing devastated the oceans. By helping to protect the oceans we can help save the whales and so save ourselves.’

Key measures the ocean campaigners are calling for in their Ocean Recovery Manifesto include:

  • designating a minimum of 30% of English waters as fully protected marine areas by 2030
  • creating a fund to restore and protect ‘sea forests’ of seagrass, salt marsh and kelp, which can capture 35 times as much CO2 as rainforests
  • reallocating fishing quotas to make them more sustainable and enhancing monitoring to prevent fishing-related deaths of protected species including whales, dolphins and porpoises
  • strict chemical and plastic production and monitoring requirements to reduce pollution in our seas at the source

A new #OceanDreaming photo competition is also being launched by the Wildlife and Countryside Link coalition today. The marine experts are encouraging people across the country to share a photo that captures their best seaside memories. The photo can be anything to do with our seas - from rockpooling, to ocean sunsets, to animal encounters. The photo can be recent or, with many people finding it harder to access the sea or choosing not to visit during lockdown, it can be an older memory of the British seaside.

A judging panel of marine experts will whittle the submissions down to 14 images and three overall winners, all of which will be displayed at a parliamentary event in the Autumn. The photos will be used to highlight the benefits that our oceans offer for people, nature and climate with MP's and to ask the Government to provide more support for the seas which support us.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. Wildlife and Countryside Link is the largest environment and wildlife coalition in England, bringing together 58 organisations to use their strong joint voice for the protection of nature. Our members campaign to conserve, enhance and access our landscapes, animals, plants, habitats, rivers and seas. Together we have the support of over eight million people in the UK and directly protect over 750,000 hectares of land and 800 miles of coastline.

The following organisations support the calls within the ocean recovery manifesto: Animal Welfare Institute, A Rocha UK, Buglife, CHEMTrust, ClientEarth, Environmental Investigation Agency, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Humane Society International UK, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Institute of Fisheries Management, Marine Conservation Society, ORCA, RSPB, Shark Trust, Surfers Against Sewage, The Wildlife Trusts, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, WWF-UK, Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

2. To enter the #OceanDreaming photo competition, individuals should submit their photo (at least 1MB in size) to oceandreaming@wcl.org.uk by 23:59 on Wednesday 8th July. Entrants are asked to share a brief explanation of why the photo is important to them along with the image. For more information and full terms and conditions please visit www.wcl.org.uk/ocean-dreaming.

Factfile:

  • Seabird numbers have plummeted by up to 70% in 25 years, in part due to changing food sources as a result of warmer waters from climate change
  • Over a third of UK fish stocks had catch limits set above sustainable levels for 2020
  • The UK has lost 80% of its salt marshes in the past 200 years, which are ten times more effective at capturing carbon than terrestrial ecosystems
  • Management measures have only been implemented in 10% of UK Marine Protected Areas
  • Thousands of dolphins, whales, seals, seabirds and other protected species such as sea fans die every year due to incidental capture in fishing gear in UK waters
  • The UK’s orca population has not reproduced in 25 years due to chemical pollution destroying their immune and reproductive systems
  • The IUCN Red List of threatened species lists over 50% of UK sharks and rays in a Threatened or Near Threatened category

(For sources of the above statistics, please see our Ocean Recovery Manifesto)