The UK will continue to be a global leader on marine conservation | Daily News Byte

The UK will continue to be a global leader on marine conservation

 | Daily News Byte


Environment Secretary Therese Coffey today urged more countries to join the more than 120 nations who support the pledge to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.

Speaking as global leaders came together to tackle the global biodiversity crisis at the UN Conference on Biological Diversity (CBD) CO15 in Montreal, Canada, the Environment Secretary called for more ambitious and meaningful outcomes for ocean conservation and confirmed the UK would renew its role. In addition to COP15 as Chair of the Global Ocean Alliance.

Moving forward in this role, the UK will continue to be a leading voice in driving ambitious ocean action and the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework in the marine environment.

Defra announced that £20 million in grants – worth between £250,000 and £3 million – will be made available to local organizations around the world to fight illegal fishing and marine pollution, as well as sustainably manage marine protected areas. MPAs) and protect rare habitats and species.

In addition, the UK will contribute a further £17 million from the Blue Planet Fund to the World Bank’s ProBlue programme, bringing the UK’s total support to ProBlue to £25 million. To date, PROBLUE has supported more than 100 projects in more than 70 countries, including supporting ASEAN regional plastic waste trade, and India’s transition to a regulatory sustainable fisheries regime.

Speaking at the Convention on Biological Diversity COP15 during the IOC-UNESCO Oceans Action Day, Environment Secretary Therese Coffey said:

It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of healthy, safe, sustainable use of the ocean for millions of people around the world.

I am pleased to confirm that the UK will continue to chair the Global Oceans Alliance where we are committed to securing the maximum possible ambition and achieving the greatest possible impact to help us put nature on the road to recovery and protect at least 30% of the oceans. Global oceans by 2030.

The UK’s £500 million Blue Planet Fund supports developing countries to protect the marine environment and reduce poverty. An initial investment of £20 million for OCEAN (Ocean Community Empowerment and Nature), a new competitive grant programme, will support innovative proposals from country organizations that protect healthy marine ecosystems and reduce overfishing. They will also ensure that communities have increased capacity to manage marine pollution.

PROBLUE, a World Bank multi-donor trust fund, supports projects around the world that focus on the sustainable management of fisheries and aquaculture. The UK Government’s investment will help address marine pollution, support the development of offshore renewable energy and help governments around the world better manage their marine and coastal resources. Since its inception, PROBLUE has supported more than 100 projects in more than 70 countries.

Pitcairn Islands in focus

The UK Government’s leadership on ocean conservation extends around the world, new survey findings from Cephas (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) and Blue Abacus reveal today.

The Pitcairn Islands, a UK Overseas Territory in the Pacific Ocean, are home to the world’s largest Marine Protected Areas (MPA) – three and a half times the size of the UK. Its waters are among the most remote and understudied in the world and contain rare and endangered species.
Established as a no-take zone in 2019, commercial fishing, drilling and other extractive activities are prohibited in Pitcairn’s MPA area. Shark fishing was also banned in 2018.

The two-week expedition in 2021, funded by the UK government’s Blue Belt programme, revealed key findings on the effects of climate change on coral reefs, as well as rare species such as sharks and humpback whales. Key findings include:

  • Sharks were observed in more than half (66%) of all underwater surveys, with multiple species (such as gray reef sharks, Galapagos sharks, and whitetip reef sharks) observed in half (51%). It suggests that the ban on shark fishing has had the effect of supporting healthy shark populations, higher than the global average (it is estimated that sharks have disappeared from a quarter of the world’s reefs).
  • Six individual humpback whales were observed on the seafloor with many more recorded from surface observations, including mothers and their calves. The age of the calves suggests that the whales are using the Pitcairn MPA as a nursery ground protected from human activities and threats.
  • A total of 7,319 individual fish from 203 different species were recorded, including endemic fish species such as the many-spined butterflyfish (Hamitaurichis multispinosus).

Simon Archer Rand, Senior Marine Adviser at the Center for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), commented:

The results of this landmark survey are a significant breakthrough for the Pitcairn Islands. The community is the custodian of one of the world’s largest no-take marine protected areas in the Pacific Ocean, providing a sanctuary for marine life in the vast Pacific Ocean. The island has strong cultural links with the sea and its passion to protect it is clearly reflected in its actions.

Since 2016 we have supported island communities in the Blue Belt Program to advance their capacity to monitor their marine environment as well as strengthen the governance of valuable MPAs.

The survey data collected will help Pitcairn manage the MPA effectively, ensuring these key habitats are protected into the future. But there is still much to learn. We are just beginning our journey in terms of understanding this area of ​​global importance.

From 2016 to March 2022, the Blue Belt Program is supported by £35 million of UK Government funding, with a further £8 million committed in this financial year until March 2023.


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