Wednesday 28th September 2016                 Change text size:

Conservatives and Labour vie to create vast marine protection areas



Coral, fish and one diver

Both main political parties have now pledged to create vast ocean reserves around UK overseas territories. Last week it was the Conservatives adopting the campaign of Zac Goldsmith and this week it was Labour putting forward an even more ambitious plan.

The Labour plan, to be announced in this week’s “Green Plan”, adds to the Conservative “blue belt” marine protection area around Pitcairn and 14 UK overseas territories, by including additional protected areas around Ascension Island, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands in the Atlantic. Labour has also committed to creating more protected areas around the UK coast.

To give you a sense of scale the UK has 1,680 km2 of water and 241,930 km2 of land. The overseas territories have 6.8 million km2 of water or ocean – 28 times our combined land and sea territory. That’s why they contain 94% of the UK’s biodiversity. They are, in a word, vast, i.e. “of very great extent or quantity; immense”.  Small nation states, but huge ocean states.

Campaigning chef and journalist, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall told the Independent, “It’s great that Labour have made such a strong commitment to marine conservation and not unexpected, given their track record. They set a precedent of global ocean protection by declaring a marine reserve in the Chagos Islands when they were last in office and if they can add Pitcairn, Ascension Island, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands to that, then collectively they will have created a marine safe haven larger than any other nation has managed, and will have genuine significance in the whole ocean biosphere.”

With both parties committing to the creation of these reserves, and the commitment to the Pitcairn reserve in the budget, it seems likely that the campaign to create vast marine protection areas will become a reality.

Photo: Derek Keats via Flickr

Further reading:

Helena Bonham Carter joins calls for vast UK marine reserves

Budget 2015: government announce marine reserve around Pitcairn Islands

UKOTs: Our marine reserves need protection

Obama signs to create vast Pacific marine reserve


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