MP for North-East Hertfordshire, Sir Oliver Heald, is calling for new protected maritime areas to be created around three of the UK’s Overseas Territories (UKOTs). With very little cost, the UK could protect vast areas of water from illegal fishing and large losses of biodiversity, and, at the same time, make a major contribution to meeting global targets for ocean protection. The UK has the 5th largest maritime zone in the world, covering 1.9% of the world’s oceans, most of it around the UKOTs. Governments have agreed an international target of protecting 10% of coastal and maritime areas by 2020, but, with only six years to go, less than 1% is currently fully protected.
The world is currently in great need of ocean conservation. Our seas are under increasing pressure from the effects of climate change, overexploitation, pollution, and habitat loss. It is estimated that 90% of all large fish are gone and that 15 of the 17 largest fisheries in the world are close to collapse. A study published in Science predicts that all the world’s fisheries will collapse by 2048 if current trends continue, and the United Nations has put the annual loss of revenue to global fishing fleets due to over fishing and poor management at £50 billion.
Commenting, Sir Oliver said, “The world’s oceans are challenged at the moment. Many species are being lost, and others are being fished out of existence. To create protected maritime zones around the Pitcairn Islands, the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and Ascension Island would, at minimal cost, create a protected area of around 2.5 million square kilometres. This would be a huge contribution to protecting our seas and would be an excellent way of marking the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity.”