This is a helpful but a rare event. I can’t remember the last time a Defra Minister provided an overview covering UK’s position on protecting the marine environment. 

UK takes centre stage in global marine protection

Today the UK and Ireland co-hosted the annual meeting of OSPAR to protect the marine environment. Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey has today set out how the UK continues to play a leading role in protecting the world’s oceans and turning the tide on marine litter.

Speaking in Cork for the 25th annual meeting of the OSPAR Commission – an international convention to protect the marine environment of the north-east Atlantic – the Minister outlined how the UK is leading international efforts to tackle plastic pollution, protect marine species and habitats, and support cutting-edge marine science.

Earlier this month the UK made a number of voluntary commitments at the first-ever United Nations Ocean Conference in New York. These include joining the UN’s Clean Seas campaign to reduce the use of disposable plastic by 2022, strengthening global ocean observations, and working with Overseas Territories to protect the diverse range of marine life in their waters.

Speaking at the meeting, Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said:

The UK continues to be a global leader in protecting beaches, oceans and marine life around the world.

Our seas are critical to the future of our planet – they supply the oxygen we breathe, absorb the carbon dioxide we produce, and provide us with a magnificent array of marine species and habitats. That’s why we must act now to protect them for future generations. The introduction of the 5p plastic bag charge was a great step forward – cutting the number of bags found on beaches by nearly half – and alongside our work to ban harmful microbeads, reduce plastic packaging, and create a series of marine protected areas, I am determined for us to remain a heavy-hitter on the marine world stage.

Today’s meeting of the OSPAR Commission, jointly co-hosted by the Environment Minister and Ireland’s Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal, Damien English, brings together 15 countries across Europe to set out ongoing work to create a network of marine protected areas and launch a new report on the status of marine species and habitats in the north-east Atlantic.

Through OSPAR, the UK and neighbouring countries have developed and are implementing a Regional Action Plan on marine litter. This covers 55 actions to address land-based and sea-based sources of litter, including education and awareness activities, marine monitoring, and removing litter that has already reached the marine environment.

At the UN Ocean Conference the UK reiterated its continued commitment to conserving and sustainably using the world’s seas – one of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to tackle poverty, end hunger and protect the environment.

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