UK sustainable seas inquiry launched

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The UK Parliament Environmental Audit Committee have launched a new inquiry on the future of our seas – examining how they can be protected from climate change, acidification, overfishing and pollution, and how the Government can create a sustainable blue economy.

Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:

“We have only one ocean, and we all have a duty to care for it. The ocean plays a critical role in the daily lives of billions of people who live by it and whose livelihoods depend on it. Today it is suffering from pollution and plastic waste, climate change and acidification, as well as growing demands on its resources.

“Our inquiry will shine a spotlight on the threats to our ocean, and ask what more the Government could be doing to protect it. We will look at emerging marine industries, and how the Government can build a sustainable ‘blue’ economy.”

Growing global reliance

In the years ahead there will be a growing global reliance on the sea for resources, driven by population growth, and facilitated by innovations in aquaculture and seabed mining.

Climate change and acidification threaten the future of marine life, and the communities which depend on the ocean. Pollution, including plastic pollution, is a growing threat to marine wildlife.

Marine industries can compound the damaging effects of global environmental problems like climate change, pollution and ocean acidification.

Healthy marine habitats and biodiversity provides us with goods and services essential to life on earth, including food, raw materials, leisure and recreation, carbon and nutrient cycling, and climate regulation.

The value to the UK of marine biodiversity has been estimated to be in the trillions of pounds. In September, the United Nations will begin an Intergovernmental Conference on conserving marine biodiversity under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development

The UK has commitments under the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development to promote the health of the ocean, including Goal 14 ‘Life below water’.

With its 14 Overseas Territories, the UK is responsible for 6.8m km2 of ocean, nearly 30 times the size of the UK itself. The UK signed up to the Aichi Biodiversity Targets to ensure 10% of the ocean is conserved and protected by 2020, but only 3% is protected at the moment.

The Committee will be focusing its inquiry on three areas and would welcome submissions by 5 pm on Wednesday 16 May that address all or some of the following themes:

  • The impact of environmental changes and the legal framework protecting ocean biodiversity
  • A sustainable blue economy
  • The impact of marine industries, science and innovation, and blue finance

The Government Office of Science published its paper on the Future of the Sea in March 2018 looking at the long-term issues affecting the sea and how the UK could use its expertise and technological strengths to benefit from future marine opportunities and tackle problems like ocean acidification.

The UK Overseas Territories comprise 90% of the biodiversity for which the UK Government has responsibility.  The UKOTs encompass vast tracts of ocean and thousands of coral atolls, with internationally significant marine biodiversity.

The UK is subject to international agreements relating to marine biodiversity. At the international level, this includes the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 (Life Below the Sea) to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and marine resources.

Read more about the Sustainable Seas Inquiry.

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