Here at Love Ocean we are very aware that the oceans need our help. That is why we put marine life and protection at the centre of everything we do. But we thought we’d have a look at the wider picture to see how things are looking across the globe.
The ocean covers 70% of the earth but sadly at the moment only 3% of it is being officially protected. This means biodiversity is being threatened and habitats are being lost, on a huge scale.
Thankfully, there are some great initiatives and organisations out there which are working hard to protect our undersea animals and plants.
30 x 30
This is a mission by the Marine Conservation Institute to preserve at least 30% of the ocean by 2030. They want to increase the number of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by stopping overfishing, pollution and other destructive human activities. Scientists believe that these areas can help prevent the impact of climate change and create sanctuaries for species. In total, 190 countries approved a United Nations agreement to try to reverse nature loss by 2030. It’s an ambitious target but we hope it will make people realise that we need to act now to save our seas.
Getting rid of ghost gear
If you’ve not heard of ghost gear before, it’s the discarded or lost fishing equipment which lies on seabeds and floats in our oceans, trapping all kinds of marine life. This has a huge impact on food sources for larger species and puts endangered species at even more risk. It’s now thought to be one of the most harmful forms of marine plastic debris and WWF says it makes up 10% of plastic pollution in the ocean.
In 2015 the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), including the WWF and US government, was created to try to find solutions to the issue. Leaders from more than 40 countries and millions of people are now calling for a global agreement on this type of pollution and we’re hopeful it will happen soon!
What’s happening in the UK?
In June 2023 the UK government designated three Highly Protected Marine Areas in our seas, on top of the 371 Marine Protected Areas covering 38% of UK seas. The HPMAs are in Allonby Bay in Cumbria, North East of Farnes Deep in the North Sea and Dolphin Head in the English Channel. The government says: “HPMAs have a critical role to play in ocean recovery, by setting aside some areas of the sea with the highest levels of protection.”
This might sound like a positive step in the right direction but some organisations have said it doesn’t go far enough in protecting these ecosystems.
A number of organisations such as Oceana UK and Project Seahorse are campaigning for tighter restrictions, and even a ban, on bottom trawling. This is when fisheries drag weighted nets along the seabed to catch fish and other marine life and a huge proportion of the fish that is sold and eaten across the world is caught this way. However, it can be really damaging to habitats on the seabed, catches non-target species and releases billions of tonnes of CO2 into the water.
While a total ban is unlikely, the Marine Conservation Society is calling for a ban in the UK’s Marine Protected Areas. The group found that within five years of protection from bottom trawling, animals in three UK and Isle of Man MPAs were found to be bigger and more diverse. When areas of sea around the world were fully protected, biodiversity increased by an average of 21%. This is the kind of positivity we like to see, we just need a lot more of it.