General Election 2015: Labour to make pledge on creating biggest ever sea life protection zones

British overseas territories will host largest safe haven ever created by a single country

Jane Merrick
Saturday 18 April 2015 23:52
The haven would give ‘unprecedented protection for turtles’
The haven would give ‘unprecedented protection for turtles’

The creation of the largest marine protection area in the world will be pledged by the Labour Party as part of its “green plan” to be carried out under an Ed Miliband government.

Labour will create new ocean reserves around several British overseas territories, including the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific. It will also pledge more marine conservation zones around the UK, claiming that the coalition has not done enough to protect UK seas.

The pledges were applauded by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the cook and sustainable fish campaigner, who described it as a “strong commitment to marine conservation”. Yet the Conservative manifesto last week contained similar pledges to protect marine wildlife and the coalition had already given the green light, in last month’s Budget, to the marine reserve around Pitcairn, which will cover 834,000 sq km of ocean.

In its Green Plan published this week, Labour commits to a Marine Protected Area around Pitcairn and plans for an additional protected area around Ascension Island, not covered by the Tory scheme. In the South Atlantic, Labour said it would offer “unprecedented protection for turtles, sharks and whales”, with a protected area around South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, in consultation with local people.

The Marine Protected Area around Pitcairn will be funded within existing budgets and backed by private-sector investment, the party said. A Labour government would also create more marine conservation zones around the UK, which will require a financial commitment, as green groups point out privately. The party said the Government had “dragged their heels” and delivered only 27 out of a possible 127 marine conservation zones. The Government’s second public consultation on protected marine areas ends this Friday.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has applauded the pledges, describing them as a “strong commitment to marine conservation”

The Conservative manifesto promised to create a “blue belt” of protected areas around the 14 UK Overseas Territories, which include Pitcairn and Ascension, subject to “local support and environmental need”, as well as a pledge to complete a network of Marine Protected Areas in British waters.

The shadow environment secretary, Maria Eagle, said: “The Tories and Lib Dems have done next to nothing to protect the marine environment while they were in government and no one will believe their pre-election promises.”

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall, whose recent campaign was supported by 875,000 signatures, said: “It’s great that Labour have made such a strong commitment to marine conservation and not unexpected, given their track record. They set a precedent of global ocean protection by declaring a marine reserve in the Chagos Islands when they were last in office and if they can add Pitcairn, Ascension Island, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands to that, then collectively they will have created a marine safe haven larger than any other nation has managed, and will have genuine significance in the whole ocean biosphere.”

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Fish Fight campaign to protect UK seas was supported by 875,000 signatures.

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