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Sustainable Seas Report from MPs  Warns About Threats to the Ocean

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The amount of plastic pollution in the seas could treble in 10 years

British MPs have issued a stark warning about the future of our oceans and urged we must do far more to protect our seas or we risk irreversible damage to marine life and the planet.

A report from the Environmental Audit Commission says that we face destroying coral reefs, devastating fish and marine mammal populations and causing global economic chaos.

Mary Creagh MP, the chair of the committee which issued the report, Sustainble Seas, last week, said: ‘We only have one ocean and our children deserve to experience it in all its wonders and to be able to see the coral reefs going into the future’.

The report says the UK government must rethink a ‘sea-blind’ attitude that is failing to tackle the amount of waste ending up in our oceans through waterways, sewers and drains – including nutrients from fertilisers, mismanaged waste and contaminants such as oils, pharmaceuticals, untreated sewage, mismanaged waste, fertilisers and pesticides, heavy metals and radioactive material.

Plastic accounts for some 70 per cent of litter in our oceans the report says – and unless we act now to tackle the problem, the volume will treble within a decade.

The report urges the government to set legally binding water-quality targets, with clear milestones to reduce chemical pollutants from land-based sources.

It wants the government to ban plastics that are difficult or impossible to recycle and to bring forward the 2042 deadline to eliminate avoidable plastic waste. That means expanding and speeding up deposit-return systems and doing more to make retailers and manufacturers take responsibility for the waste they generate.

‘More than 80 per cent of marine pollution is from land-based sources,’ the committee points out. ‘We are treating our seas as a sewer. Most of the action required to protect the seas relies on action on land.’

The report goes on to consider the impact of climate change, which is driving species to migrate and creating local impacts such as coral bleaching.

‘A 2°C temperature rise above pre-industrial levels will significantly harm biodiversity and fish stocks and destroy nearly all coral reefs in the world,’ it says. ‘The impacts on marine ecology risk being particularly pronounced.

'Species affected by climate change include krill and plankton, which, if removed from the marine food chain, could lead to a one-third decline in populations of larger predators, including polar bears, walruses, seals, sealions, penguins and seabirds. Increased ocean temperatures are also likely to see large reductions in fisheries stocks.

‘A rise of 1°C in temperature will increase the prevalence of pathogens and parasites, resulting in at least a 20 per cent decline in populations of mussels, shrimp, squid and other marine mammals.’

The report names climate change, overfishing and pollution as the three greatest threats to the world’s oceans. However, it expects demand for resources and growth in deepsea mining to exacerbate those pressures.

It concludes: ‘Urgent action is needed to meet the Paris Agreement on climate change to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The government must not delay in implementing the Committee on Climate Change’s advice on how to meet the ambitions of the Paris Agreement and set out its plans for this in the first half of 2019.

'This should include setting a net-zero emissions target by 2050 at the very latest.’

Read the full report https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmenvaud/980/98003.htm

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