Government 'is letting Britain's seas die'

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The Independent Online

A much-heralded government initiative to protect more than 40,000 marine species will do nothing to prevent Britain's seas from dying, wildlife groups said yesterday.

The Government's "Safeguarding our Seas" strategy includes tighter planning regulations for sensitive marine areas and a project to draw up an environmental map of the entire Irish Sea.

At its launch yesterday, Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said the plan would help to conserve 44,000 species and preserve Britain's marine heritage.

The report was intended to showcase the Government's response to a crisis in North Sea fish stocks, after some species including cod, skate and monkfish have virtually disappeared because of pollution and over-fishing.

But the Wildlife Trusts, which represents dozens of environmental groups, said the report was little more than a delaying tactic. Dr Simon Lyster, director general of the trusts, said the Marine Stewardship Report fell "far short" of what was needed.

"Every year, thousands of whales, dolphins and porpoises die needlessly in UK waters. These deaths represent the tip of the iceberg." Joan Edwards, the trusts' marine policy director, added: "The government recommendations are far too little too late."

Among the measures included in the report is the extension of planning controls beyond 12 miles off the coast to cover all British waters. Mrs Beckett admitted the measures would not make an immediate difference.