UK Needs a Post-Brexit Plan to Protect Its Oceans

Brexit, the UK’s exit from the EU, gives the country a unique chance to recast how it treats its marine environments with a particular focus on pollution and the fishing industry.

A new UK government report warns that plastics in our oceans could triple within the decade, but that there are unique opportunities for the UK’s so-called ocean economy.

The report, dubbed the “Foresight Future of the Sea Report“, was commissioned by ministers in order to look at the current state of UK coastal waters and the oceans at large and what the UK should do to maintain and improve its relationship with the seas in terms of both the environment and the economy.

There are a number of warnings in the report, and many are familiar.

For one thing, the report stresses that ocean plastics waste is a dire emergency, something that the UN also recently highlighted. The report says that unless the UK takes action now, the amount of plastics waste in our oceans will triple between 2015 and 2025.

Currently, anywhere between 9 and 12.7 million tons of plastic waste enter our oceans every year. Getting a figure for the total amount currently in our oceans is incredibly difficult, but the yearly figure alone demonstrates how we can’t afford to keep polluting our oceans in this way.

Plastics aren’t the only problem facing our oceans, though. Ocean warming due to global climate change also presents significant issues, not least of which hinge around how it could change fishing practices and hamper conservation efforts.

There are also significant concerns about the runoff of pesticides, fossil fuel leaks and, even, pharmaceuticals that are all ending up in our oceans.

These are issues the report says have been left “out of sight, out of mind,” and that is something that must change if the UK is to have a healthy relationship with its surrounding ocean waters.

The good news is, the report finds, the UK is also well placed to capitalize on what it calls the ocean or marine economy. This can coincide with promoting sustainable practices.

For one thing, the UK as an island has certain advantages for sea exploration that partially or entirely landlocked nations in Europe cannot access. That means as interest turns toward exploring our oceans and looking at what ways marine natural resources can be supported, cultivated and farmed, there will be investment and business opportunities for the UK.

This may come in the form of developing and hosting autonomous boating and diving vessels, as well as engineering robotics and other technologies designed for navigating and working in a sea environment.

The report estimates that the ocean economy may double between now and 2030 going up to $3 trillion, so there is substantial room for growth, and the rewards could be significant.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister Lord (Tariq) Ahmad said that this report highlights the need for science to lead the way as we attempt to benefit from a modern marine economy

“Both the opportunities and the challenges set out in this important report are global in scale and demand our urgent attention.” Ahmad said. “The UK is rightly recognised as a world leader in the marine and maritime fields.”

He continues, “Most of all, we must ensure that governments keep pace with this changing environment. International collaboration remains crucial in order to realise the fullest benefits of our marine industries and scientists, for the UK and the world.”

Professor Edward Hill from the UK National Oceanography Centre echoed those sentiments. “The ocean is critical to our economic future,” Hill told the BBC, “Nine billion people will be looking to the ocean for more food. Yet we know so little of what’s down there. We invest a lot of money and enthusiasm for missions to space – but there’s nothing living out there. The sea bed is teeming with life. We really need a mission to planet ocean – it’s the last frontier.”

In order to make good on these prospects, the UK would have to make several changes to its current policies.

For one thing, the report stresses that fishing could be a major source of development. However, we know that fish stocks are massively depleted and that fishing practices – including pulse fishing and deep sea trawling – are not viable if we want to protect our marine habitats. Ending those practices, even in the limited amounts they are currently used, and pushing for other countries to do the same, is critical.

If post-Brexit UK is truly serious about sustaining its marine habitats and profiting from the ocean economy, it must first invest heavily in creating sustainable fishing practices and extending wide-scale marine conservation areas. It should also position itself as a fierce advocate for marine habitats. Only in this way can it truly hope to make the marine economy a place of mutual profit and not damaging environmental exploitation.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

52 comments

Irene S
Irene Sabout a month ago

I´d say, they need a few more plans. At least a plan at all.

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Marie W
Marie W5 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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KimJ ManyIssues
KimJ ManyIssues9 months ago

tfs

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KimJ ManyIssues
KimJ ManyIssues9 months ago

tfs

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KimJ ManyIssues
KimJ ManyIssues9 months ago

tfs

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KimJ ManyIssues
KimJ ManyIssues9 months ago

tfs

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KimJ ManyIssues
KimJ ManyIssues9 months ago

SHOCK WASTE PICTURED: EU fishing laws lead to TONNES of fish dumped off UK coast in 1 HAUL. https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/787557/eu-common-fisheries-policy-125000-dumping-sea-bass-fixed-quota-allocation-fishing >>>
REVEALED: How the plastic industry KNEW 50 YEARS AGO it was causing a pollution crisis and hid it from the world. -
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5240389/Plastic-industry-hid-pollution-crisis-50-years.html >>>
http://plastic-pollution.org/ >>>
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/28/a-million-a-minute-worlds-plastic-bottle-binge-as-dangerous-as-climate-change

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Carl R
Carl R10 months ago

Thanks!

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Chad A
Chad Anderson10 months ago

This Brexit thing is not working out on number of dimensions. I hope the UK can manage the transition better tan it appears so far.

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Renata B
Renata B10 months ago

The UK needs a second referendum on Brexit because especially after this story of Cambridge Analytics that has emerged. So many scandals so many inventions and absurd promises that no-one intend to keep. They throw their masks just an hour after the results. The people of the UK have been betrayed so badly.

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