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UK government needs to follow through with ocean promises at home

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UK government talked the talk on the world stage at COP15 but is falling short of delivering on ocean promises at home.

So, we (together with partners Marine Conservation Society, and Blue Marine Foundation) are pushing for more protection for the seas around the UK and urging the government to help reach targets set at COP15 in Montreal by fulfilling its own promises for the UK.

On the final day of COP15, an international conference aimed at safeguarding biodiversity (all the Earth's interconnected living things), promising steps were made, with nearly 200 countries committing to protecting 30% of land and sea by 2030.

The UK government played its part in that agreement. But the UK government’s commitment to ocean protection closer to home is failing. For example, it claims that 38% of the seas around the UK are in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The reality is very different, as most of these sites are little more than lines on a map - with even the most damaging activities, like bottom-trawling, allowed. So far, bans have been implemented for just 4 out of the 40 offshore English MPAs.

it's not just fishing activity that is hampering the recovery of Marine Protected Areas. Pollution of our seas is playing an increasing role in biodiversity loss. From plastics, to microplastics, raw sewage and ‘forever chemicals’, all building up over time and creating a toxic soup. In 2018, the UK government set out to publish a Chemicals Strategy to curb pollution but nearly five years on, no strategy has been published.

Ed Goodall, Green Whale manager at WDC said: ’Chemical pollution is devastating marine life in UK waters including the west coast population of orcas in Scotland, which is now down to around just eight individuals. At the same time, we know that whales bring climate and biodiversity benefits, so restoring their populations by eliminating threats takes on additional urgency.’

Only time will tell if the UK government follow through with their promises, but with the climate and nature crisis intensifying, it is of paramount importance that the biodiversity of UK seas is truly protected.

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