Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, firmly endorsed a campaign to create marine reserves throughout the British Overseas Territories at a reception in the Commons today.
Speaking at the launch of a pamphlet about how the present Blue Belt policy could be expanded and consolidated, Mr Johnson said the Blue Belt policy of creating marine reserves with and around some of the UK’s remote overseas territories was “an absolutely fantastic scheme, the biggest ever” at 4 million square kilometres of ocean.
He said: “No British government has ever embarked on a more ambitious environmental policy – in terms of sheer surface area of the globe – and we are going to protect an expanse of ocean the size of Argentina and Chile combined. I love the fact that a quarter of the world’s penguins are British.
“I am conscious that we have to make this work for the overseas territories, so that this is not seen as an imposition upon them but as something that helps their economies as well. We will make it work for them in a sustainable way so that their economies are not damaged but helped by this endeavour. And we will simultaneously create great marine havens for the wonders of the sea.”
Mr Johnson added that the policy was a “fantastic example of global Britain in action.”
Richard Benyon said that until the Foreign Secretary had spoken, marine conservation was “the love that dare not speak its name” in Government circles.
His pamphlet suggests how the UK can go further than implementation of the existing Blue Belt commitments in Ascension, St Helena, Tristan da Cunha and the Chagos archipelago by:
- Supporting further ambitious implementation of the Blue Belt in the UKOTs and in a new reserve twice the size of the UK around the South Sandwich Islands, south of South Georgia. These alone are home to a tenth of the world’s penguins.
- By maintaining and extending funding up to the end of this parliament in 2022.
- By spending Blue Belt funding in the UKOTs.
- By replacing upcoming loss of EU environment funding.
- By extending monitoring and surveillance efforts out to a 100 nautical mile ‘buffer zone’ around Blue Belt sites.
- By leading in the United Nations diplomatic effort to create marine protected areas on the High Seas.
- By leading in securing more effective conservation performance from Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.
- Specific policy goals for each Territory are outlined in detail as recommendations for successful implementation of the Blue Belt.
Mr Benyon, the author of the pamphlet, opened proceedings and kindly thanked BLUE and the other members of the GB Oceans coalition for our work on this campaign.
BLUE’s Executive Director Charles Clover said: “The Blue Belt policy is one of the best things this government has done but it could do more. I am delighted that Richard Benyon and Boris Johnson have now started that conversation.”
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