‘Spectacular failure’: Green groups respond to government’s Marine Strategy

The ocean emergency has grown as a decline in biodiversity

According to the new strategy, which is currently undergoing consultation, the UK has only met four out of 15 indicators required for healthy oceans  – and environmentalists claim the revised framework and targets do not meet the requirements of the UN’s biodiversity report on immediate action to prevent mass extinction of species and habitats.

The green groups, commenting under the collective banner of the UK Marine Strategy from Wildlife and Countryside Link coalition partnership, said the strategy was a “spectacular failure” admission that oceans are in poor condition should be a “wake up call” to government to take more action and faster.

Chris Tuckett, Director of Programmes at Marine Conservation Society, and Chair of Wildlife and Countryside Link’s Marine Group, said:

“Such a wholescale failure to meet our own targets for healthy oceans must be a wake-up call on behalf of our seas. If our oceans are ever to become healthy again it is vital that all Governments in the UK set legally binding targets which are ambitious and rapid. Time is running out for the waters and wildlife that we love.”

Alec Taylor, Head of Marine Policy at WWF, said:

“We are facing a climate and environment emergency and the crisis is playing out below the waves as well as on land. The vast array of life that lives in our waters is disappearing, as plastic chokes our seas, seabirds starve and marine noise levels rise. We’re harming ourselves as well as our ocean wildlife, as healthy seas are vital in the fight against climate change and crucial for a sustainable fishing industry. This long-awaited Marine Strategy is extremely welcome, but it needs to set much bolder targets, if we’re going to halt the loss of nature now and put it on a path to recovery by 2030 and beyond.”

Gareth Cunningham, Head of Nature Policy at RSPB, said:

“Business as usual is no longer an option when it comes to protecting the seas, wildlife such as seabirds are in serious decline across the UK. Decisive leadership is urgently needed to reverse these trends and put our seas and wildlife back on an even keel.”

Dr Lissa Batey, Senior Policy Manager at The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“Today’s report is a startling wake up call, demonstrating that the losses we’ve observed on land are just as apparent in our seas. It is shocking that as the UK we are failing on so many aspects of the UK Marine Strategy. For instance setting up a noise registry does nothing to address the little known impacts of this ever increasing pollution on our seas. However, the Governments have an opportunity now to ensure that in a further six years’ time they are not reporting on failures once more – they must do better, doing more to ensure nature’s recovery on land and sea.”

Dr Elaine King, Director of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said:

“Consultation on the UK Marine Strategy is welcome, but without a tidal wave of radical action the state of our seas will continue to decline. The Government’s proposals fall far short of the mark. If we don’t want Orcas, puffins, and other treasured species to become sights of the past, Governments across the UK must dramatically raise their marine ambition and investment.”

Dr Julie Schneider, Marine chemical campaigner at CHEM Trust said:

“Invisible chemical pollution is damaging the balance of the ocean’s ecosystems, such as the long-lived chemicals PCBs which are still threatening the survival of orca populations around the UK decades after being banned. Many more of these long-lived, poorly degradable chemicals are still being produced, in spite of their lasting impact on the marine environment. The Marine Strategy should call for urgent action to take such chemicals off the market to protect marine wildlife and human health.”

Sarah Denman, Environment Lawyer at ClientEarth said:

“The Government must seize the opportunity that the UK Marine Strategy presents to truly protect our seas. Ministers are showing an abject lack of ambition. The draft Fisheries Bill that will regulate UK fisheries post-Brexit falls fathoms short of preventing overfishing and damage to marine ecosystems. If the Government fails to set and achieve strong targets, our marine life and the health of our oceans could be irretrievably damaged.”

Friends of the Earth campaigner Emma Priestland said:

“Our oceans are filling up with plastic waste and today’s strategy will not be enough to stem the flow. Tougher government measures are needed to protect our seas and wildlife from plastic pollution – including new legislation to ensure this happens.”

Gill Bell, from Marine Conservation Society and Co-Chair of Wales Environment Link’s Marine Working Group, said:

“According to the State of Natural Resources Report, Wales has no marine ecosystems that are classed as resilient. The Welsh Government along with the other governments across the UK, urgently need to articulate actions they are going to take to address the failures to achieve Good Environmental Status. We must reverse declining marine biodiversity to ensure nature’s recovery and enhancement of Wales’ marine environments.”

Calum Duncan, Head of Conservation Scotland for the Marine Conservation Society and Convenor of Scottish Environment LINK’s Marine Group, said:

“Following recent climate and nature emergency reports, this latest marine health-check is a wake-up call that business-as-usual is harming Scotland’s oceans. Welcome progress has been made in some areas, but we need to go further and faster to reverse ecosystem collapse at sea. Large-scale ecological restoration and a complete re-think of how we manage human activity at sea, putting marine ecosystem limits front and centre of planning and licensing, is urgently needed.”

Peadar O’Connell, Marine Policy Officer, RSPB Scotland, said:

“Scotland has a huge responsibility to look after our marine environment, hosting a huge proportion of the UK’s seas and marine life, including over two-thirds of the UK’s breeding seabirds in spectacular colonies. We know many of these birds are in serious trouble, over 80% declines in some species, and this assessment confirms that a fundamental new approach to protecting seabirds and the marine environment is needed urgently. Scottish Government is showing strong leadership on climate change, however, this assessment shows it is failing the marine environment and must set a new course before it is too late.”

Ellen MacMahon, Northern Ireland Marine Task Force Officer, said:

“This assessment is further evidence of the struggles our seas are facing. It is crucial that the UK Marine Strategy sets strong, ambitious targets in order to halt biodiversity loss. Northern Ireland’s marine environment is important for a range of species and habitats such as harbour porpoise, common skate and seagrass beds (to name a few). Decisive action must be taken to protect and enhance Northern Ireland’s marine environment.”

James Evison

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