Image credit ©Paul Colley
Whether led by Labour or Conservatives, the next British government will give protected status to the largest area of ocean in the world.
Labour has trumped manifesto pledges by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats last week by promising to create marine reserves around the South Sandwich Islands, south of South Georgia as well as around Pitcairn and Ascension.
Labour would also create more marine conservation zones around the UK. It says that the coalition has not done enough to protect UK seas.
The Conservatives said in their manifesto last week they would designate a further protected area at Ascension Island in the Atlantic, subject to the agreement of the local population, in addition to the reserve around Pitcairn announced in the Budget.
If that protected area took up all or the most part of the territorial waters of Ascension, as is likely, Britain’s total marine protected area would exceed that of the United States where President Obama made new commitments around the Pacific Remote Islands last summer.
Labour’s commitment to the South Sandwich islands would expand the lead over the United States even further, but Britain would expect opposition from Argentina.
The Liberal Democrats are committed in their manifesto to a million square kilometre reserve in the Atlantic – thought to mean Ascension and the South Sandwich Islands – plus a reserve at an unspecified location in the Arctic.
In its “Green Plan” published today Labour says its marine reserve around Pitcairn would be funded within existing budgets and backed by private sector investment. More marine conservation zones will require an extra financial commitment.
Labour said that the coalition had dragged its heels and delivered only 27 out of a possible 127 marine conservation zones.
BLUE, as a member of the Great British Oceans Coalition, has been campaigning for a commitment to protect the waters of the UK overseas territories, including Ascension, which is a green turtle mecca and one of the last remaining hotspots for Atlantic megafauna such as tuna, marlin and shark.
BLUE would like to thank its supporters for enabling us to carry out this campaign, which has reaped great rewards in a relatively short time.
Charles Clover, BLUE’s chairman said: “We are absolutely delighted that our call for major marine reserves around Pitcairn and Ascension has now been met by an all-party commitment and that Labour would go even further and create a reserve around the South Sandwich islands.
“The ‘green’ commitments in this general election now have a strong tinge of blue.
“This is a wonderful result for BLUE and the Great British Oceans campaign. We look forward to working with whichever party or parties that forms a government to make these huge and important reserves a reality.
“This commitment throws down the gauntlet to other countries in the world with vast territorial waters to step up to the plate and create reserves of their own.”
Here is the wording of the manifestos on marine conservation:
Marine Protection p55
Will create a ‘Blue Belt’ to protect precious marine habitats
Earlier this year we announced the creation of a new Marine Protected Area around the Pitcairn Islands – the largest protected area of sea in the world. We will now go even further, creating a Blue Belt around the UK’s 14 Overseas Territories, subject to local support and environmental need. We will designate a further protected area at Ascension Island, subject to the views of the local community. And, off our own coasts, we will complete the network of Marine Conservation Zones that we have already started, to create a UK Blue Belt of protected sites.
Marine Protection p14
Will work with local communities, scientists and conservation groups to expand the UK’s network of Marine Conservation Zones to create areas specifically for the protection of mobile species as well as reference areas off limits to fishing and other extractive activities.
Play our part in creating a Southern Atlantic Reserve and champion internationally the protection of the Arctic.
Because 94% of the biodiversity for which the UK is responsible is found in our Overseas Territories, ensure that conservation of the environment of the Overseas Territories, including their marine areas, is funded to a level equal to their global significance. We would also immediately extend ratification of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to all uninhabited territories, and work with territory governments to agree a timeline for ratification of the Convention in all inhabited territories.
Marine Protection, P11 of Green Plan
Will deliver a Marine Protected Area around Pitcairn and continue to work with the UK Overseas Territories of Ascension, and South Georgia and South Sandwich on their proposals for additional protected areas.
Will deliver an ecologically coherent network of Marine Conservation Zones around the UK.
Ensure that fishing quota allocation contributes to the restoration of a thriving industry, including the revival of coastal communities and the protection of the marine environment.
Will designate an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas with appropriate management by 2020.
Create a one million square kilometre southern Atlantic Ocean reserve.
Push for the creation of a marine nature reserve in the Arctic Ocean, promote the highest possible environmental standards for UK companies operating in the region and press for a ban on EU-flagged vessels undertaking industrial fishing in the previously unfished areas of the Arctic.
Will leave EU and repatriate Common Fisheries Policy.