U.K. Calls for 30% Of Global Oceans To be Designated Protected Areas

Earth as photographed by the crew of Apollo 17. (Credit: NASA)

The environment secretary of the U.K., Michael Gove, last month called for one-third of the world’s oceans to be designed as marine protected areas by 2030. Globally, less than 10% of the world’s seas are currently designated as marine protected areas (MPAs)—one of the most important ways to protect precious sea life and habitats from damaging activity.

Currently, global targets for marine protected areas are set by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, with parties agreeing to protect 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020. The U.K. will join almost 200 other countries in November in Egypt to begin negotiations on a new global target, and while there will push to increase the current figure to 30% by 2030.

This will build on the U.K.’s global leadership in protecting the marine environment—with more than 200,000 sq. mi. of Britain’s coastline already protected and recent proposals submitted for 41 new marine conservation zones (MCZs), which mark the most significant expansion of the British ‘Blue Belt’ (or, waters it has committed to conservation) to date. The proposed new MCZs span more than 12,000 square km, protecting species such as the short snouted seahorse, stalked jellyfish and peacock’s tail seaweed.

The U.K. government will also publish an international ocean strategy before the end of 2018 setting out further action to conserve and sustainably use the ocean. The government has introduced one of the world’s strongest bans on microbeads to protect the oceans and 13 billion fewer bags have been distributed thanks to the government’s 5p plastic bag charge. The government also plans to end the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds and introduce a deposit return scheme, subject to consultation later this year. —U.K. Government

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