The UK’s economy could benefit from a £50 billion boost by 2050 if a holistic approach to the restoration of the UK’s seas was adopted by policymakers.
That’s according to new research by Sky Ocean Rescue and WWF, which estimates a total of 100,000 new jobs could be created by protecting and restoring natural carbon sinks such as kelp forests and seagrass meadows.
The report finds that currently, less than 1% of the UK’s marine areas are fully protected by law.
The study also estimates that 85% of saltmarshes and 95% of oyster reefs have already been lost – saltmarshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by saltwater brought in by the tides.
Seagrass meadows, which are considered to be capable of capturing and storing carbon more quickly than rainforests can, have also suffered a 90% decline according to the findings of the report.
The report also predicts a 15% decline of the fish stock in the Celtic seas and a 35% drop in the North Sea by 2050 as a result of over-fishing and poor regulation of protected areas.
Tanya Steele, Chief Executive at WWF, said: “Every second breath of oxygen we take comes from the ocean, but the pressures we are placing on UK seas, from pollution to overfishing, means they now need urgent life support.
“We must halt and reverse decades of neglect to fully protect more of our ocean, the beating blue heart of our planet. We must invest to unlock the potential of the marine economy, to create tens of thousands of jobs both offshore and onshore.”
Jeremy Darroch, Executive Chairman at Sky and WWF-UK Ambassador, said: “The health of our oceans and climate change are inextricably linked. It is critical that we invest in positive solutions for ocean and climate recovery that help us build back from the global crisis in the right way.
Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, said: “Our ocean is a source of life, central to our climate, marine habitats and the livelihoods of so many. That’s why the UK Government is committed to leading efforts to protect our ocean and marine life at home and internationally.
“We have already established a ‘Blue Belt’ covering over 38% of our waters and are leading calls for at least 30% of the global ocean to be protected by 2030.
“However there is still a great deal to be done to restore our ocean to its natural state and I welcome the valuable work of WWF and Sky Ocean Rescue to place a spotlight on this issue.”