UK Marine Bill needed urgently

Marine habitats are being destroyed because of a delay in introducing a UK Marine Bill, a new report by WWF warns.

Can We Have the Bill Please?, published this week, said practices such as trawling, sand and gravel extraction, and unlicensed commercial fishing are taking their toll on the sea.

The report said current legislation is failing to protect marine species and habitats and called for the Bill to be brought to Parliament urgently.

Jan Brown, senior marine policy officer at WWF, said: “Our seas have been in decline for some time and it is imperative that the Government addresses the urgency of the situation.

“The facts are inescapable – many nationally important species and habitats are at risk.

“It is imperative that we have overarching marine legislation in all UK seas to prevent further deterioration and decline.”

Marine legislation will also be essential to protect marine habitats in the face of increased renewable energy development, WWF said.

Ms Brown added: “The UK seas have the greatest potential for renewable energy in Europe, yet we do not have an efficient marine planning system to enable this resource to be used effectively and swiftly.

“This planning system is urgently needed for government to reach its commitments to national and international CO2 emissions reduction targets.

“Developers need certainty that they can develop through an efficient licensing system and conservationists need certainty that habitats are protected while such developments go ahead.

“This can only be achieved with a proper planning system under the new Marine Bill.”

The report says proposals in the UK Marine Bill to control currently unregulated activities and to establish Marine Conservation Zones, will also be essential to protect biodiversity in British seas.

Species such as the basking shark, leatherback turtle and long-snouted sea horse are currently at risk from marine activities.

Kate Martin

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