Restoring UK seas could provide £50bn boost

15th January 2021

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Stefan Boss

Restoring the UK’s seas could pump £50bn into the economy by 2050, bringing thousands of new jobs, huge climate benefits, and wildlife restoration, new analysis suggests.

In a report by Sky Ocean Rescue and the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), the researchers claim that restoring seas to full health would create 100,000 clean energy jobs – mostly in marine renewables – and mitigate the worst effects of climate change by protecting and restoring natural carbon sinks, such as kelp forests and seagrass meadows.

Moreover, bringing industrial trawling to an end and allowing fish stocks to recover could allow the UK to land an extra 442,000 tonnes of fish every year, worth £440m, and support an additional 6,600 jobs.

The report calls for urgent action and investment from the UK government to address the “chronic health” of seas, including a new ‘Ocean Recovery Strategy’ this year to restore marine habitats by 2030.

“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,” said WWF chief executive Tanya Steele

“We must invest to unlock the potential of the marine economy, to create tens of thousands of jobs both offshore and onshore. If the UK is to show leadership at COP26 in Glasgow this year, our governments must work with us to put ocean recovery at the centre of our journey to net zero.”

The report highlights how an estimated 85% of saltmarshes, and 95% of oyster reefs have been lost, while seagrass meadows – capable of capturing and storing vast amounts of carbon quicker than rainforest – have also suffered a 90% decline.

It claims that over-fishing and poor regulation of protected areas have decimated fish stocks, with projected declines of 15% in the Celtic seas, and 35% in the North Sea by 2050 if action is not taken to halt and reverse unsustainable and destructive practices.

Continuing on the current path will result in a loss of fisheries and coastal ecosystems costing the UK £15bn by 2050, according to the report.

Climate change is also thought to be having a major impact, and is expected to cost the fishing industry an estimated £1.5bn over the next three decades, while warming waters are increasing acidification and putting enormous pressure on marine ecosystems.

“The health of our oceans and climate change are inextricably linked,” said Jeremy Darroch, executive chairman at Sky and WWF-UK ambassador. “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.”

Image credit: iStock

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