A national marine park could be established in Plymouth Sound using existing legislation and this could be a blueprint for other parts of the UK, a conference has concluded.
On June 6, Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) and Plymouth City Council invited 130 delegates to the National Marine Aquarium to discuss the proposition that marine parks could improve the conservation of natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage in UK coastal waters and provide more opportunities for people to understand and enjoy the country’s finest marine landscapes.
The event took place in the context of the announcement of a review of national parks by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
Mr Gove’s adviser, Julian Glover, sent a message to the conference saying it was of “central relevance” to his review. Michael Gove expressed his support for Plymouth Marine Park in an interview with a reporter the day after the conference concluded.
On the day, delegates heard first-hand perspectives from marine parks from around the world followed by the length and breadth of the UK coastline. Consensus was reached: marine parks could be used to better protect coastal waters as public assets while bringing shared prosperity, broader public engagement and regeneration of deprived coastal communities.
A strong case was made for Plymouth to be the first marine park. The city sits within one of the biggest and most beautiful natural harbours in the UK, its surrounding waters are some of the highest designated in the country. Despite rich maritime heritage, parts of Plymouth remain disconnected from the sea – there are children who have never visited a beach.
The conference finished with a vote in the room as to whether Plymouth should go ahead and set up a marine park using existing legislation, on the basis of appropriate public interest and conservation objectives. There was overwhelming support for this proposal.
Tudor Evans, Leader of Plymouth City Council, told the conference “The sea is in Plymouth’s DNA… I would like to be the first leader of any city anywhere in the UK that has a national park to its north, a river and a country park to its east and west and a national marine park to its south.”
Charles Clover, Executive Director of BLUE, said: “I think everyone was surprised by the near unanimity of agreement that there should be marine parks in UK and that the first one should be in Plymouth Sound.
“There is a perceived need for something bigger and more inclusive than existing nature designations if we are going to care for our inshore waters. National parks are a concept with 70 years track record and public support.
“I would like to thank all those who took part in getting to this point, from Plymouth and further afield, and especially for the leadership shown by Tudor Evans at the city council and by Luke Pollard, the local MP.”
Read the conference report here.