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Ocean Conservation

Volume 643: debated on Tuesday 26 June 2018

Last Friday, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary announced that he personally will lead on drawing up an international oceans strategy for the Government. Our ambitious Blue Belt programme is protecting waters around the overseas territories and we are championing the establishment of science-based marine protected areas across the Southern ocean, including in the Weddell sea.

Global ocean conservation must begin at home, so will the Minister join me in welcoming many local initiatives around the coastline of Britain, which are playing such a vital role—particularly, I am bound to say, around the beautiful coastline of North Devon?

We all commend the efforts of local communities. Growing awareness and subsequent personal choices and actions are crucial for preserving the marine environment, and we all need to assess our own habits as consumers and play our part in safeguarding our oceans.

Effective marine conservation requires constricting fishing to sustainable levels, as in the successful cod recovery plan in the North sea. Will the Minister encourage his fellow Ministers to end the pretence that if Brexit happens British fishermen will suddenly be able to catch a lot more fish?

I think that is a slightly different point from the policy we are drawing up for the wider oceans around the world and around our overseas territories. The UK has declared large-scale marine protected areas around five overseas territories, leading to about 3 million square kilometres of protected ocean. That is a massive achievement, which we wish to build on in any way we can.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, CCAMLR, meets in October and will consider three new marine protected areas around Antarctica—particularly, as my right hon. Friend mentioned, the Weddell sea. However, it appears likely that, as happened in previous years, Russia and China in particular might well block those proposals. What further action can we take between now and October to bring real pressure to bear on Russia and China to bring in these MPAs, which are so vital for the preservation of our Antarctic wildlife?

I think it is fair to say that the UK is very much a world leader on oceans policy of this sort, and I hope that any kind of environmental standards that we wish to set in our oceans are not blocked for any political purposes by countries such as Russia. We are all on the same planet, we need to preserve our oceans, and I hope that our scientific lead in this area will also give us the political authority to reach the sort of agreements that we want to.

President Trump’s recent statement on the oceans did not mention sustainability, stewardship, ecosystems or climate. When he comes to London, will the Government challenge him on that, or do they think that it would, to coin a phrase, achieve absolutely nothing? If it is the latter, what is the point of the visit?

Should I meet President Trump personally, I will look upwards, look him in the eye, and the first word on my lips will be “oceans”.