Following the final episode of Blue Planet II which showed the devastating impact of humans on the world’s seas, the Great British Oceans coalition called on the government to safeguard its remote marine zones, which are home to some of the world’s most endangered species.
Already 133 MPs have backed the campaign to create 1.5 million square miles of protected ‘bluebelt’ around seven British overseas territories which contain the breeding grounds for a quarter of the world’s penguins, and one third of the world’s albatrosses.
The proposed zone would cover Ascension Island, South Georgia, Saint Helena, Tristan da Cunha and the South Sandwich Islands, in the south Atlantic, as well as the British Antarctic Territory, the British Indian Ocean Territory and Pitcairn Islands in the southern Pacific. It would be the world’s biggest network of ocean sanctuaries.
In last night’s Blue Planet II, viewers saw the regurgitated stomach contents of a South Georgian albatros which had probably been fed plastic bags by its mother. Another bird had died after a plastic toothpick had penetrated its stomach.
Each year more than 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally, and 10 per cent will end up in the sea. It is estimated that there is now a 1:2 ratio of plastic to plankton and, left unchecked, plastic will outweigh fish by 2050.
A separate campaign, which also launches today, led by the Marine Conservation Society, Surfers Against Sewage, the High Seas Alliance and the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, is calling for at least 30 per cent of global ocean to be designated as marine sanctuaries.
Sandy Luk of the Marine Conservation Society said: “We have found a growing tide of plastic pollution on UK shores, and must act now to stem that tide.
“The UK's influence on the waters of all of the world's ocean is immense, and we call on UK governments to show leadership at this crucial moment to protect some of the natural jewels of our fragile blue planet.”
Designating areas ‘bluebelt’ or Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), would restrict human activity such as tourism, oil and gas mining, the use of sonar, ship transit and fishing.
Willie Mackenzie, of Greenpeace said ”Blue Planet II has reminded us all of the wonder and awesomeness of the world’s marine life all over again, from diving the depths of the icy Antarctic to showing us an inventive octopus wearing a shell-suit.
“We now have a fantastic opportunity to create a lasting legacy for our shared blue planet. That’s why we’re calling on our governments to step up, suit up, and be the champions our global ocean so desperately needs”.
The campaign #BackTheBlueBelt has been launched by a coalition including Greenpeace, the Marine Conservation Society, The Pew Trusts, RSPB and Zoological Society of London, and is backed by naturalist Chris Packham, Stephen Fry, Cara Delevingne and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.