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The next UK government promises to be an ocean champion

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All rights reserved. Credit: Enric Sala/ Nat Geo

Here’s a prediction: the next UK government will do great things for global marine protection.

At this stage in a general election campaign it’s sometimes hard to find something that politicians wearing differently coloured rosettes can agree on, but with an unprecedented bunch of manifesto commitments, there’s a growing certainty that the next UK government will be an ocean champion.

Today the Labour Party releases its fleshed out Green Plan, and with that gives some detail of what it will prioritise in UK seas, both those around our own shores, and those surrounding far away UK overseas territories in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Labour’s pledge means we've now had commitments from four of the main UK-wide parties (Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem & Green)* with some big visionary ideas about establishing globally-significant protected areas. This will give respite for some of the world’s most iconic and threatened species, and see the UK playing a big role in global marine conservation.

So you don’t have to trawl through them, I’ve made a quick summary of what each manifesto says about oceans.

Conservatives

‘We will create a ‘Blue Belt’ to protect precious marine habitats’.

The Conservative manifesto pledges to create a ‘blue belt’ of protected areas around the UK’s 14 overseas territories. Specifically they pledge to create a marine reserve around Pitcairn (which already has the support of Pitcairn islanders) & Ascension Island, in conjunction with those living on the island.

Labour

‘The next Labour Government will ensure that the UK becomes a global leader in marine protection’.

Labour’s Green Plan commits to creating a full marine protected area around the Pitcairn Islands; progress protection around Ascension, South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands; and consider the marine conservation potential of other UK overseas territories.

Liberal Democrats

‘..create a one million square kilometre southern Atlantic Ocean reserve’.

The Liberal Democrats manifesto pledges to create a massive marine protected area in the Southern Atlantic, by extending protection of some of the UK’s oversea territories. They also pledge to increase UK efforts to protect the Arctic Ocean, by pushing for its protection and preventing the expansion of industrial fishing.

Greens

‘… ensure that conservation of the environment of the Overseas Territories, including their marine areas, is funded to a level equal to their global significance.’

The Greens’ manifesto also pledges to create a South Atlantic marine reserve, as well as push for protection of the Arctic. On overseas territories the Greens want to prioritise conservation generally and expand the coverage of treaties designed to protect biodiversity and endangered species.

On top of that, all four of these parties pledged to finish the job on domestic ‘Marine Conservation Zones’ by creating more protected areas around UK shores to ensure an ecologically coherent network of protected areas.

This is big news, and good news, for our oceans. And it's thanks jointly to environmental groups, conservationists, scientists, celebrities, political champions and others working together to raise the issue of marine conservation up the political agenda.

I for one much prefer a world where political leaders are competing about how big their protected areas will be, rather than how big their arsenals are.

 

*UKIP’s manifesto made no mention of marine conservation, except some ‘no take areas’ to protect fish stocks


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