No-take zones are most effective in addressing climate and biodiversity crises, but currently cover less than 0.01% of UK seas
Oceana calls on the UK to protect at least 10% of UK seas in Highly Protected Marine Areas. At present, about 30% of UK seas are designated as Marine Protected Areas, but most are “paper parks” - protected only in name. With the UK government soon to release a review into Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), Oceana urges the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to commit to fully protecting at least 10% of England’s seas by 2022, by designating them as HPMAs.The science is clear: highly protected marine reserves work, and they are needed to address the climate and biodiversity crises. The EU has recently adopted a similar target in its 2030 Biodiversity strategy.
HPMAs, also called no-take zones or marine reserves, are a very powerful and underused tool to quickly restore our rich ocean ecosystems and sealife. They are by far the most effective way of protecting marine biodiversity, but to date represent less than 0.01% of our seas – consisting of just one site in England, the Lundy Marine Nature Reserve (in North Devon).
Melissa Moore, Head of Policy in the UK, said: “At present bottom trawling and other damaging fishing activities are still permitted in most MPAs. This is equivalent to running a bulldozer through a nature reserve on land and must be stopped. The UK needs at least 10% of Highly Protected MPAs, to protect our wildlife and prevent falling behind the rest of Europe.” She continued, “Given that some of our habitats such as saltmarsh and seagrass meadows store more carbon than terrestrial forests, we really have a global, as well as national duty, to fully protect them.”
HPMAs are “super Marine Protected Areas“ - the strongest form of marine protection. They multiply the benefits of regular MPAs, leading to more and larger fish, greater productivity, restored biodiversity and habitats. By creating more complex ecosystems, HPMAs are more resilient to climate change than less protected areas. They also bring socio-economic benefits including eco-tourism, coastal protection and fish replenishment. The higher the level of protection, the greater the benefits for biodiversity.
Scientists agree internationally on the urgent need for HPMAs and advise that they cover 30% of our oceans to restore them to their former health and abundance globally. Oceana advocates 30% of HPMAs too by 2030, with short-term targets in the UK of 10% by 2022 and 20% by 2025.