Click for MSN Article on UK Marine Environment on its Knees
Britain’s marine environment – described by conservationists
as “our life support system” – is on its knees, in desperate need of some “tender loving care”,
according to a new report.
Conservation experts from around the UK have compiled a list of 15
marine areas urgently in need of protection, each considered vital for the preservation of at least one species of marine
animal or plant.
Marine Reserves – TLC for our seas and sea life, a report by
the Wildlife Trusts, says immediate action is needed to allow our seas to recover from centuries of overexploitation, for
everything from food to oil and building materials.
The report calls on the government to create legally protected marine
reserves, where fishing and other damaging activities such as dredging and construction are outlawed, in Britain’s seas
to safeguard some of the 44,000 species endemic to our waters – from tiny corals to giant basking sharks.
Time, the report says, is now running out for ministers to meet their
commitment to provide an adequate network of conservation areas by 2010 – and it warns that failing to do so could cause
irreversible damage to the UK’s biodiversity.
“In 2005, after years of lobbying by The Wildlife Trusts, the
UK government finally promised a Marine Bill to provide better protection for our seas and sea life. We’re still waiting
for it,” said a Wildlife Trusts spokesman. “We mustn’t let the Marine Bill drift away. It’s a once
in a lifetime opportunity to save our seas.”
Earlier this year, the government published a White Paper on its
plans to protect Britain’s marine life, but has yet to include it in a timetable for legislation. Conservationists are
now concerned the Marine Bill will fail to get a mention in the Queen’s speech, delaying legislative action for another
Stephanie Hilborne, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, said:
“We cannot delay the Marine Bill any longer. Our marine life is at stake. The Marine Bill must be included in the Queen’s
Speech and it must deliver marine reserves.”
Less than 0.001% of our seas are legally protected from commercial
exploitation, according to the Marine Reserves report, which was launched at the House of Commons on October 10. Sir David
Attenborough, prolific naturalist and vice-president of the Wildlife Trusts, said: “As an island nation, I find it astonishing
that we have protected less than a thousandth of one per cent of our seas from fishing and all damaging activities.”
A degree of protection from human activities has already been extended
to certain coastal areas in the form of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), of which there are currently more than 100 in British
waters, but many scientists and conservationists argue these are insufficient.
The proposed marine reserves would take restrictions significantly
further, placing legally enforced bans on all fishing, dredging and construction in a bid to enable underwater ecosystems
and wildlife to recover.
A similar exercise at Lundy Island off Cornwall’s north coast,
site of a no-take zone where all fishing is banned, has already proven such schemes can dramatically boost species numbers.
Marine Reserves, we will continue on our downward spiral,” said the report. “With them, we can start to rebuild
our living seas.”
A petition in support of the Marine Bill, signed by tens of thousands
of people, including more than 100 MPs, is due to be delivered to Downing Street by the Wildlife Trusts on October 17.
By Laura Snook, MSN UK News Editor
October 10, 2007
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