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Why we’re launching a scorecard to hold Government to account on their marine promises

In the first of a series of blogs launching the Wildlife and Countryside Link 2021 Marine Scorecard for Defra, Marine Group Chair Chris Tuckett and Group Vice Chair Sean Clement explain how Ministers can deliver bold action on the marine environment this year to tackle the twin crises in climate and nature

April 2021

Earlier this year, in a speech to the Coastal Futures Conference, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow declared that 2021 would be a ‘Super Year’ for our seas. Using its presidency of COP26, the G7 and its status as a newly independent coastal state, the UK Government would show global leadership based on our “ambition and delivery at home”.

Recent developments have shown the imperative for action to back up this vision. We have seen the £50bn economic case for Ocean Recovery, the extent of damage being caused to our offshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and the new powers within the Fisheries Act to manage our fisheries for the benefit of climate and nature. Given all of this, it has never been clearer that healthy seas have a role in fighting the twin crises in climate and nature.

As the UK continues on a Spring re-opening, many of us could be forgiven for trying to pick up where we left off last year, getting out our diaries and changing 2020 to 2021. The UK Government’s environmental ambitions also appear to be following this approach, with the rescheduling of major climate and environmental summits that were originally pencilled in for 2020. Indeed, all indications are that 2021 is going to be a second go at an environmental ‘Super Year’. The biodiversity and climate crises require urgent action, so this year we need to get it right and act now. That’s why today, Wildlife and Countryside Link are publishing a scorecard to rate the government on its 2021 Marine Super Year promise.

We welcome the early and encouraging action so far this year, with work underway to protect 4 of our 40 offshore MPAs and continued work to secure the ocean’s rightful place at the COP26 negotiation table. However, there is a huge amount still to do for ocean recovery in 2021. Too many marine sites are protected only in name, too much wildlife continues to be harmed by pollution, development and unsustainable fisheries, and too few coastal and marine ‘Blue Carbon’ habitats are still in need of restoration.

Our scorecard for the Government sets out the actions we believe need to be delivered this year. It is supported by a wide cross-section of the UK’s leading environmental and wildlife groups and covers ocean recovery targets, measures to protect and enhance marine biodiversity, reforms to offshore planning, progress on bycatch, and the promotion of Blue Carbon. We believe that the policies contained in the scorecard constitute a credible set of actions which the government should seek to deliver before the end of the year.

We will assess action against this scorecard in December, allowing us to judge whether the government has delivered on their promises to protect our precious marine environment.

There is a lot we need to do to restore our seas and much of it will continue beyond 2021. We hope that by the time we’re filling in our diaries for 2022, we’ll be able to say that not only was 2021 a marine ‘Super Year', but also the year the UK turned the tide for ocean recovery.

Chris Tuckett is Director of Programmes at the Marine Conservation Society. Follow: @mcsuk Sean Clement is a Policy Officer for the UK SEAS Programme at WWF-UK. Follow: @wwf_uk

To read the marine scorecard report for Defra click here. The scorecard is supported by Buglife, Greenpeace, the Institute of Fisheries Management, the Marine Conservation Society, ORCA, RSPB, RSPCA, Surfers Against Sewage, WDC, The Wildlife Trusts, WWT, and WWF

The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.