I’m a bit surprised that we haven’t heard any great announcement from the UK ahead of the Rio conference. Often good news stories are squirrelled away to be produced (to mix analogies) like rabbits out of hats for maximum effect.
This must have been what the Australian government had in mind when making a recent announcement about giving complete protection to a massive area of the Coral Sea beyond the Great Barrier Reef National Park. And this news was greeted with much acclaim by the media and commentators in Australia (here, here and here) and abroad (USA, USA, UK, ) and with a bit of muttering of ‘not enough’ by conservationists and ‘too much’ by fishermen.
Australia now has the largest marine reserve network in the world although the Chagos archipelago, announced, funnily enough, by UK Foreign Secretary, David Miliband (whatever happened to him?) before the 2010 General election remains the largest single site.
All (I think) the nations assembling this week for the Rio+20 conference signed up to the Aichi targets in Nagoya in autumn 2010 – one of those was to protect 10% of the ocean areas through effective marine protected areas.
The UK has plenty of scope to raise its game in this area – progress is pitifully slow in UK domestic waters despite the great hopes raised by the previous government’s Marine Act and we should expect more to be done around more of the Overseas Territories.
My reading of the science is that there is a lot to be gained in terms of biodiversity by having strong protection rather than weak protection for such marine areas. But also that those benefits extend to the main industry that depends on marine biodiversity – fishing. We have clobbered the seas for too long – and there are lots of reasons why that has happened – but it isn’t too wild a thought that protecting some areas from any fishing helps to replenish fish stocks which can then be fished at a higher yield because they are bigger stronger stocks.
Maybe the UK has some other impressive announcement to make on the way to Rio? Or maybe as Nick Clegg is attending it wasn’t thought worth finding a big announcement for the DPM? Or maybe we just don’t have anything much to say….