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Marine Science



Investing in health of UK seas could create 100,000 jobs and give £50 billion boost to economy.

Restoring the UK’s seas could pump billions of pounds into the economy by 2050, bringing thousands of new jobs, huge climate benefits, and wildlife restoration, according to a new report by Sky Ocean Rescue and WWF.  

The Value of Restored UK Seas’ outlines the economic potential of healthy seas by examining two scenarios: ‘business as usual’, where the health of our seas continues to decline, and ‘restoring seas to full health’ by adopting a holistic approach and making significant investment in ocean recovery. The report shows the latter will bring additional benefits of at least £50 billion by 2050.   

Other potential gains include: the creation of 100,000 clean energy jobs –  mostly in marine renewables – and mitigating the worst effects of climate change by protecting and restoring natural carbon sinks, such as kelp forests and seagrass meadows. 

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 £440 million, and support an added 6,600 jobs.  

Tanya Steele, Chief Executive at WWF, said:  

“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. 

“We must halt and reverse decades of neglect to fully protect more of our ocean – the beating blue heart of our planet. 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 comes as Sky Ocean Rescue and WWF launch the ‘Ocean Hero’ campaign, designed to drive ocean recovery over the next decade and inspire millions to become Ocean Heroes and take real action to save our seas. This follows the commitment made by Sky in February 2020 to achieve net zero carbon across its entire value chain by 2030, two decades ahead of the UK government’s target.  

The campaign also coincides with the announcement that Sky’s Executive Chairman, Jeremy Darroch, has extended his role as a member of WWF-UK’s Council of Ambassadors for a further three-year term. In this critical year for the battle against the climate and nature crisis, Darroch will use his role as an Ambassador to engage with the business community, encouraging ambitious leadership and bold target setting in the lead up to COP26 and beyond.  

Jeremy Darroch, Executive Chairman at Sky and WWF-UK Ambassador said:  

The health of our oceans and climate change are inextricably linked. 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. 

“Four years ago, Sky Ocean Rescue was launched to tackle plastic pollution in our seas, but today this report highlights how much more needs to be done to save our oceans and halt the climate emergency.  

“At Sky, we’ve set our own ambition to be net zero carbon by 2030 and want to inspire others to #GoZero with us. That’s why we’re calling on the UK public to become Ocean Heroes; to play their part in restoring the health of our seas to benefit climate, nature and people.” 

The ‘Value of Restored UK Seas’ report calls for urgent action and investment by UK governments to address the chronic health of our seas, including a new UK ‘Ocean Recovery Strategy’ this year to restore our marine habitats by 2030.  

Currently less than 1% of our marine areas are properly protected. The UK government committed to healthy seas by 2020, but they failed 11 out of 15 indicators of good health last year – including those relating to bird, fish and seabed habitats. 

The report found that coastal erosion is destroying crucial marine habitats in the UK. It is estimated that 85% of saltmarshes and 95% of oyster reefs have been lost. Seagrass meadows, capable of capturing and storing vast amounts of carbon quicker than rainforest, have also suffered a 90% decline. Sky Ocean Rescue and WWF are working to restore these vital carbon sinks and to date, have planted over a million seagrass plants.   

Over-fishing and poor regulation of protected areas has 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. The report shows that if we continue on the current path, the loss of fisheries and coastal ecosystems would cost the UK £15 billion by 2050. 

Climate change is also having a major impact and is expected to cost the fishing industry an estimated £1.5 billion by 2050, while warming waters are increasing  acidification and putting enormous pressure on marine ecosystems. And yet, our seas absorb over a third of the UK’s carbon emissions. The campaign includes a petition urging the UK governments to commit to a 10-year Ocean Recovery Strategy in the first half of 2021, with a vision and action plan to deliver UK ocean recovery by 2030.

If the UK is going to set an example to other coastal nations ahead of this year’s pivotal global climate summit in Glasgow, the recovery plan must include:

  • Recovering lost coastal ecosystems.
  • Fully protecting at least a third of UK seas.
  • Rebuilding fisheries, allowing fish stocks to recover.
  • Supporting deepest emission reductions through net zero shipping and offshore renewable energy.
  • Enshrining ocean recovery into law to meet national goals for our marine environment.
  • Increasing investment and enabling new forms of finance to fund ocean recovery.
  • Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, said:“Our ocean is a source of life, central to our climate, marine habitats and the livelihoods of so many. That’s why the UK Government is committed to leading efforts to protect our ocean and marine life at home and internationally. We have already established a ‘Blue Belt’ covering over 38% of our waters and are leading calls for at least 30% of the global ocean to be protected by 2030.However there is still a great deal to be done to restore our ocean to its natural state and I welcome the valuable work of WWF and Sky Ocean Rescue to place a spotlight on this issue.Sky Ocean Rescue and WWF want the Ocean Hero campaign to show how individual actions can collectively go a long way to putting our seas on the path to recovery.

    To find out more about the campaign, discover your own personal ocean superpower and find out how you can support ocean recovery and to sign the petition calling for UK ocean recovery, visit  https://www.wwf.org.uk/ocean-heroes.

    The full report is available here