Plans to protect UK’s ‘blue belt’ unveiled on World Oceans Day
The UK government has today unveiled plans to create more than 40 new marine conservation zones across the nation’s ‘blue belt’ coastline on World Oceans Day.
The new sites will span almost 12,000 square kilometres from Devon to Berwick, covering an area almost eight times the size of Greater London – the largest expansion of protected marine areas to date.
No new damaging activities such as dredging or significant coastal development will be allowed in the zones, while existing harmful activities will be minimised or stopped to allow important habitats to recover.
Rare or threatened marine species that will be protected by the expanded blue belt include the short-snouted seahorse, stalked jellyfish and peacock’s tail seaweed.
Environment secretary, Michael Gove, said: “The UK is surrounded by some of the richest and most diverse sea life in the world. We must protect these precious habitats for future generations.
“Today marks an important step towards completing our blue belt. We are creating safe havens for our cherished wildlife and putting the UK at the forefront of marine protection.”
A total of 41 new marine conservation zones were proposed today, which subject to a consultation, will add to the 50 sites previously designated around England in 2013 and 2016.
If approved, the new tranche will bring the total area of protection to over 32,000 square kilometres, boosting the coverage of Marine Protected Areas to 209,000 squared kilometres – two-fifths of the UK’s coast.
This comes ahead of a planned speech by prime minister Theresa May at the G7 summit in Canada today, where she is expected to call for global action in eradicating the oceans from plastics and other harmful waste.
May will urge world leaders to follow the UK’s lead in working with business, industry and NGOs to find solutions, arguing that the challenge will not be addressed without a joined-up approach.
“The UK government is a world leader on this issue, with our 25-Year Environment Plan setting out a clear ambition to eliminate avoidable plastic waste to protect our rivers and seas,” May is expected to say.
“Marine plastics pollution is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world today. This is a global problem, requiring global solutions.”
Image credit: Shutterstock
Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM