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World Oceans Day call for action as three quarters of Brits say better protection for our ocean is needed

8 June 2022

New figures, released by nature experts on World Oceans Day reveal that people across the country want more and stronger Government action to restore our ocean. [1]

  • Almost three-quarters (73%) of Brits say ocean wildlife needs more protection, with just 11% believing that marine life is protected the right amount.
  • More than half of the British public (55%) say damaging bottom-trawling fishing practices should be banned in all our Marine Protected Sites, with less than 1 in 5 (19%) saying that bottom-trawling should be allowed to continue in these areas.

This year’s World Oceans Day theme is ‘safeguarding our ocean, its ecosystems and biodiversity’. This research suggests that the public aren’t convinced that we’re achieving these goals in our seas.

A ban on bottom trawling in four MPAs (including Dogger Bank) also comes into effect next week (13 June), and the Government is calling for evidence to extend the ban to a further thirteen MPAs. Wildlife and Countryside Link, Marine Conservation Society, Surfers Against Sewage, RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts are calling for the bottom trawling ban to be extended to all of the 40 English offshore Marine Protected Areas as quickly as possible – echoing the clear appetite of the British public for stronger protections for ocean wildlife from damaging practices like this. [2]

Dr Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said:
“One hundred years of industrial fishing have been hugely harmful for our marine environment, thinning out fisheries and leaving great scars in the seabed. The theme of this World Oceans Day is revitalisation. To bring life back to the ocean, we need to stop damaging fishing activities in important marine reserves – the “national parks” of our seas.

“The Government has made an important promise to protect 30% of the sea for wildlife, and we welcome the first four bans on bottom trawling, but the vast majority of the sea remains exposed to further damage. Today’s findings make it clear that there is great public support to put a stop to a century of harm and finally enable our seas to recover.”

Sandy Luk, Chief Executive of the Marine Conservation Society said:
“As we face both climate and nature crises, it’s of the utmost importance that our ocean – home to incredible biodiversity, and a vital carbon store – is protected. This latest survey shows that we’re not alone in this call for urgent action! Almost three quarters of people surveyed said that ocean wildlife needs more protection.

“Our recent analysis identified 16 ‘critically important’ sites which need protection now. The Government must prioritise these sites and start the process for the remaining 20 urgently if it is to meet its 2024 timetable and prioritise protection for climate and nature. If the Government continues at the current pace they’ll have missed the last best window to halt the damage being done to our seas. Protecting our ocean is critical for people, planet and wildlife.”

Amy Slack, Head of Campaigns & Policy at Surfers Against Sewage said:
“Last year marked the start of the Ocean Decade with only 10 years left to save the Ocean. The ocean is the beating heart of the planet and its health is vital to all life on earth. Thriving people depends on a thriving ocean. We want to surf, swim and play in an ocean teeming with life but the reality is that the marine world is just a shadow of what it used to be and declining at an ever accelerated rate.

“The findings of this poll show that the British public demand action now to stop the destruction of the ocean. It's time the Government listens and bans activities that cause untold damage to marine ecosystems and wildlife, put in place proper management of the existing MPA network, and enforce protections. We are facing an Ocean & Climate Emergency and we need to act urgently if our seas stand a chance of recovering.”

Additional quotes from RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts can be found here.

Bottom trawling is a method of fishing that involves dragging weighted nets across the sea floor to catch fish. The practice is hugely damaging to the ocean as it destroys habitats and catches any species found in the path of the nets, in addition to those that commercial fishing companies are targeting.

Bottom trawling threatens treasured wildlife, from oysters to seagrass, to dolphins, and lowers the ability of our ocean to store carbon and fight climate change. Dogger Bank MPA alone, in which bottom-towed fishing gear will be banned from 13th June, has the capacity to store the equivalent of 2.5 million return trips from London to Sydney the highest carbon storage capacity of any English MPAs.

The Government is showing progress on banning bottom trawling. But experts warn that the piecemeal drip-feed process in establishing effective management in MPAs is progressing too slowly to meet critical 2030 targets and a commitment to ban bottom-trawling in 40 offshore English sites by 2024.

Banning bottom trawling from English offshore Marine Protected Areas would allow the nature and carbon-rich ocean floor to recover. This is vitally important in the fight against twin climate and nature crises. A complete and rapid ban across all 40 sites would allow the protection and recovery of: crucial carbon sinks; nurseries to revive the levels of commercially important fish such as cod and plaice; and pivotal places of restoration for struggling species such as seahorses and sand eels which are key food sources for puffins, kittiwakes and other sea life.



  • Marine Conservation Society has found bottom-trawling is taking place in 98% of the UK’s offshore MPAs which are designed to protect the seabed.
  • The UK has lost up to 92% of its seagrass (which stores up to 35x as much carbon as rainforests), with disturbance due to bottom-trawling a big contributing factor
  • Damage to the ocean floor from bottom-trawling is estimated to release as much CO2 as the aviation industry
  • 5,055hours of fishing, including bottom trawling, took place in Dogger Bank MPA alone from 2021-22
  1. Figures are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,696 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 30th - 31st May 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
    1. Respondents were asked the questions:
      1. “Do you think ocean wildlife needs more protection, less protection or the current protection is about right?” 73% of respondents said ocean wildlife should be more protected,2% said it should be less protected, 11% said it has the right amount of protection, and 14% said they don't know.
      2. “Bottom trawling is a method of fishing that involves dragging weighted nets across the sea floor to catch fish. To what extent, if at all, would you support or oppose the banning of bottom trawling fishing in all UK protected marine sites?” 34% strongly support such a ban, 21% somewhat support a ban, 10% strongly oppose and 9% somewhat oppose. 26% say they don’t know.
  2. There are 40 offshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) around England which are designated as protected due to the importance of marine floor features or wildlife.
    1. The four MPAs in England covered by the new rules are: Dogger Bank Special Area of Conservation; Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge Special Area of Conservation; South Dorset Marine Conservation Zone; and The Canyons Marine Conservation Zone
    2. The Call for Evidence applies to the following MPAs: Cape Bank; East of Haig Fras; Farnes East; Foreland; Goodwin Sands; Haig Fras; Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton; Hartland Point to Tintagel; Land’s End and Cape Bank; North Norfolk Sandbanks and Saturn Reef; Offshore Brighton; South of Celtic Deep; Wight-Barfleur Reef

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