Callum Roberts ‘ 0.000001 – one hundred thousandth – is a number so small that to most people it seems like nothing at all. Yet four and a half years since the Marine Act of 2009 came into force – legislation that was heralded as the saviour of UK seas – this is the sum total of UK waters that is protected from all fishing for the purpose of nature conservation.  The Marine Act is that rare thing: a law supported by all political parties. The sea is dear to so many of us it transcends ideology. In the run up to the law’s enactment, there was widespread recognition that the seas were in trouble. Fisheries were in decline, once rich habitats had been stripped by two centuries of destructive fishing, and formerly abundant species had been brought to the verge of disappearance. Five such endangered species are featured on a set of stamps issued this month by the Royal Mail: sturgeon, common skate, spiny dogfish, conger eel and wolf fish. There are dozens more. Recognising the emerging crisis, coastal nations of the world committed in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development to establish national networks of marine protected areas by 2012. The Marine Act established the legal framework for a UK marine protected area network that would be comprehensive and representative of the full spectrum of marine life, complementing more narrowly targeted EU directives.  In a spirit of optimism, work began in 2010 to build an English network of protected areas by 2012 (Scotland and Northern Ireland have passed domestic versions of the Marine Act and are working to longer timetables). To read more click here

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