A new study suggests that repairing the UK’s damaged seas could boost the economy by as much as £50 billion in the next few decades.
The report, put together by the charities World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Sky Ocean Rescue, warns that currently just 1% of the UK’s waters are fully protected.
By investing in the restoration of the seas, we could not only deliver an additional £50 billion of UK funds by 2050, but could also create up to 100,000 jobs – hugely beneficial for a post-Covid economy.
Why is this important?
Put simply, our seas are in trouble. The report suggests that in 2019, UK seas failed to meet government standards on good environmental health against 11 out of 15 indicators. But we can still turn things around – and the report has shown us how.
Restoring coastal ecosystems, such as seagrass and salt marshes, can capture a third of the UK’s 2018 carbon emissions. According to the report, marine habitats capture up to 20 times more carbon per hectare than forests on land.
Plus, better management of marine protected areas can deliver up to £10.5 billion of recreational benefits, including scuba diving, sea angling, and wildlife watching.
But how can we restore UK seas?
There are four key ways we can transform UK seas in a way that benefits animals, ecosystems, and our economy.
- Restore lost coastal ecosystems – By tripling the area of seagrass and increasing the area of other habitats by 15%, we can prevent deterioration of important ecosystems. Not only will this provide an abundance of habitats, but it could help store 137 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) by 2050 – in other words, the equivalent of 86,000 long-haul flights.
- Fully protect a third of UK seas – Protecting this much of our seas would support up to 12,000 jobs in the tourism and recreation sector alone. Plus, reduced trawling in these areas would also allow habitats to recover and help capture carbon emissions.
- Make fisheries and seafood production climate positive – Currently, a third of UK fish stocks are overfished. By returning fishing stocks to a sustainable level, it could mean an extra 442,000 tonnes of fish every year for the UK – worth £440 million, and supporting an additional 6,600 jobs.
- Support net-zero climate action – Increasing offshore wind capacity by 40GW by 2030 and 75GW by 2050 would lead to carbon emissions savings ‘valued at £26 billion compared with a business-as-usual scenario.’ This level of offshore wind generation could also create 67,000 jobs, along with an additional 16,200 jobs in tidal power, and 12,000 jobs in wave power.
What can you do to help?
In light of these findings, WWF and Sky Ocean Rescue are now calling on the UK Government to commit to a 10-year ocean recovery plan as soon as possible.
The main way you can support the project is by making your voice heard. Spread the word by sharing the findings of this report, sign WWF’s Fight for Ocean Recovery Petition, and message your local MP to make sure they support this pivotal project.