Protecting the World’s Oceans
I am pleased that the United Kingdom has now protected more than 4.3 million square kilometres of the world’s ocean. As well as this, the UK remains on course to protect over half of our waters. We now have 357 Marine Protected Areas of different types, spanning 220,000 square km, and no activities deemed damaging to designated features will be allowed to take place in these areas. The Review into Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) has now been published and recommends that they would represent the upper end of environmental protection. It suggests that they exclude all extractive activity to allow for full ecosystem recovery.
The waters around the UK’s Overseas Territories are some of the richest and most biologically diverse in the world, but they face a range of threats, including climate change, damaging fishing methods and unsustainable extractive activities. Through its ambitious Blue Belt Programme, the UK Government has worked in partnership with the Overseas Territories to bring together marine experts and cutting-edge scientific research to protect and manage the waters surrounding the Territories.
The UK is working hard to deliver an international agreement that at least 30% of the world’s ocean will be protected within Marine Protected Areas by 2030. As set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan, Ministers will work domestically and internationally to deliver this vision and our commitments under the UN objective to conserve and sustainably use the ocean, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
The Fisheries Bill will enable the UK to control who comes into our waters through a new foreign vessel licensing regime and ends the current automatic rights for EU vessels to fish in UK waters. Underpinning everything in the Bill is the commitment to sustainability, ensuring healthy seas for future generations of fishermen. It is encouraging that new fisheries management plans will allow a holistic, sustainable approach to be taken when managing our fisheries. The Bill includes new powers to protect the marine environment in England, Wales, and Scotland, and powers to implement the technical measures necessary to manage fishing activity in UK waters effectively. At their request, the devolved Administrations will have more powers than ever to manage their fisheries, providing the opportunity to create tailored approaches to fisheries management right across the UK. You can track the progress of the Fisheries Bill here.