I am sure that many of you, like me, have enjoyed cold winter Sunday evenings watching the amazing ‘Blue Planet’ on the BBC with the national treasure, David Attenborough. Quite the most extraordinary filming by incredibly talented people, showing us the wonders of the marine and coastal world.
Here in Bedfordshire we are about as far from the coast as you can get in the UK, but I know just how many of you are keen on preservation of our eco systems and wildlife, and take a huge amount of notice as to how we conserve the very wonders we enjoy learning about.
I am delighted that 23 new Marine Conservation Zones have been announced, in addition to the 27 designated in the last Parliament and over 500 other marine protected areas that already existed in the UK. Together these help fulfil the ambitious pledge to create a ‘Blue Belt’ of protection for our diverse marine wildlife, which now covers over 20 per cent of English waters. It’s quite a challenge, but one that has been high on the political agenda.
This brings the number of English Marine Conservation Zones to 50, covering an area roughly equivalent to the whole of Wales, or 13 times the size of Greater London. They will protect 45 different types of habitat, geological features and fascinating sea creatures, including stalked jellyfish and spiny lobsters.
The new Zones represent the second of three phases of Marine Conservation Zones. They build on work to protect the marine environment, which includes new consultations on Special Areas of Conservation for harbour porpoise and Special Protection Areas to protect feeding and bathing areas used by iconic seabirds, such as spoonbills in Poole Harbour and puffins on the Northumberland coast.
We are also taking action on single use plastics, and looking hard at deposit schemes to try and conquer the ‘disposable’ aspect of plastic. The legislation to ban microbeads is also now in place. So a lot going on – but as we know from programmes like ‘Blue Planet’ its going to take all of us to rid our oceans and seas of the things so easily disposed of day to day.
I hope we are all going to work even harder to reuse and recycle; I’ve started using a reusable cup for coffee on the move, and a reusable water bottle – what can you do today that will make a difference to our planet?