Theresa May must act before Brexit to turn the tide towards living seas for Britain

| 25th October 2017
A Tompot Blenny. A new report by The Wildlife Trusts, ‘The way back to Living Seas’, is published today and will be presented to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Dr Thérèse Coffey MP.
A Tompot Blenny. A new report by The Wildlife Trusts, ‘The way back to Living Seas’, is published today and will be presented to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Dr Thérèse Coffey MP.
The Wildlife Trusts has today launched a new report which sets a challenge to the government to bring back living seas, and shows a way forward. JOAN EDWARDS wades in to the debate.
There are unprecedented challenges for our seas which must be addressed before the UK leaves the European Union.

Watching The Wildlife Trusts' president Sir David Attenborough enthuse about the wonders of our Blue Planet for the new BBC series; we were given tantalising glimpses of an amazing underwater world.

These wonders are not limited to tropical islands or the cold arctic though. Our seas around the UK coast are worth boasting about too. 

There's a breath-taking world below our waves, where pink sea fans stretch out their tentacles to snatch food passing by; jewel anemones in pinks and orange light up reefs, and shape shifting cuttlefish change colour to escape predators.

Unsustainable development

I've been passionate about our seas and have been campaigning to protect them for the last 30 years; whether it's kayaking the coastline, whale watching off a headline, or diving deep, there are blue planet moments to thrill and mesmerise, right here.

Although we don't often see what's living below the surface of the sea, we do know what it provides for us. A vital resource for wildlife, marine industries and leisure.

Whilst there is much to celebrate, our seas all over the world are seriously under threat from over fishing, waters becoming more acidic, pollution and unsustainable development.

We are witnessing unprecedented pressures on UK seas and their fragile seagrass meadows, reefs and mud plains on which fish, dolphins and whales depend.

Plastic is in the marine food-chain and is now affecting humans too.  Seabird numbers are dropping due to lack of food. More dolphins are being caught in fishing nets than ever and sea bass stocks have declined by 50% in five years.

Fish stocks

The natural balance of our seas is at an all-time low and we need a brand-new strategy for the new era that we're entering which tackles all these threats together - simultaneously.

That's why today The Wildlife Trusts has launched a new report which sets a challenge to the government to bring back living seas, and shows a way forward.

There are unprecedented challenges for our seas which must be addressed before the UK leaves the European Union.  

Government's first responsibility is to ensure that we bring across existing European regulations which provide protective measures for our seas and sea-life - we need to safeguard existing protective law, as promised in the Withdrawal Bill.

We need more, and a greater range of protected wild places at sea to ensure our marine life thrives. After the significant reform of the Common Fisheries Policy we have begun to see some of our fish stocks recover.

Killing wildlife

But there are still significant discard issues. We need to make sure that this process is continued which will benefit jobs, consumers and wildlife

Marine planning needs to be more coherent. Competing interests - fishing, oil rigs, wind farms and gravel extraction from the seabed all take a huge toll on UK seas, fragile seabed habitats and the wildlife that lives in them.

We need to plan our seas so that we have space for wildlife to recover and to provide certainty to industry for areas where they can develop and fish. 

We urgently need to reduce pollution. Sewage, farming chemicals, plastic litter washed out to sea, abandoned fishing nets and noise pollution from new developments off shore are killing wildlife and adversely affecting human health

A holistic approach with regional sea plans would tackle many of these issues.

Living seas

Working together is supported by Peter Barham, Chair, Seabed Users Development group. He says: "Marine industries are essential to meet the challenges of Blue Growth and UK climate change targets.

"Marine industry is also quite rightly highly regulated to make sure that developments have minimal impact on the environment.

"We are working with The Wildlife Trusts and decision-making authorities to examine potential impacts and using that information to look for better ways of working. In this way we can meet the needs of both the economy and the environment."

Finally, we're asking everyone that we all consider our impact on this amazing blue planet. Everyone can play their part in creating living seas, seas which can sustain and delight us for generations to come.

This Author

Joan Edwards is The Wildlife Trusts' Director of Living Seas. 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.

 

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