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Interview: Luke Pollard, MP for Plymouth, talks to Jeff Goodman about the proposed first UK National Marine Park



To date, I have always thought so-called marine protected areas in the UK to be a sham. Poorly regulated and enforced. Could this finally be a change of times? I was delighted to learn about the proposal for creating the UK’s first National Marine Park in my home counties of Devon and Cornwall. I caught the news recently and heard that initial funding has been awarded. Wonderful!

About Luke Pollard

Luke Pollard was elected as the Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport in June 2017. Luke was born and lives in Plymouth and is the first MP to be born in Plymouth since Michael Foot represented the city in 1945.

After winning the seat from the Conservatives, Luke was appointed PPS to Shadow Environment Secretary, Sue Hayman MP, before being promoted to Shadow Environment Minister responsible for Water, Flooding, Fishing and Coastal Communities in July this year.

In December 2018 at the University of Plymouth, Luke launched proposals to create the UK’s First National Marine Park (NMP) in Plymouth Sound.

Plymouth Sound is one of the most unique marine environments in the UK. It includes the Plymouth Sound and Tamar Estuaries Marine Protected Area designated for its abundance and diversity of wildlife, the largest naval base in western Europe, a nationally significant fish market, over 13,000 people in Plymouth are employed in the marine sector, it is home to world-class marine research and boasts a rich maritime history. Nowhere in the UK is more deserving of special recognition. Developing a National Marine Park (NMP) here in Plymouth will not only provide a huge local benefit but it will provide a model, which campaigners intend to roll out across coastal communities on a national scale. You can read more about this here.

Jeff: Thanks for taking time out to tell us more about the proposal for the UK’s first National Marine Park and I would like to heartily congratulate you and all the other people and groups involved in devising and moving this project forward.

How, when and why did you first become involved with the project?

Luke: It was just after Theresa May called the snap election in 2017 that I decided to make campaigning for the UK’s National Marine Park to be one of my key campaign pledges. Labour was 27 points behind in the polls and I thought: I have nothing to lose and so I might as well be bold and go for policies that will really make a difference. A marine park turned out to be one of the most popular pledges I made in 2017 and helped me get elected. Now, as an MP, I’m working with Plymouth City Council and our city’s academics including Professor Martin Attrill, who first proposed the concept, many years ago.

Jeff: Can you tell us the key aspects of the proposed park and how it would function?

Luke: The basic premise behind the National Marine Park is that people don’t know anything about marine protection. Plymouth Sound already has SSSIs, MCZs and a dozen other protected statuses, but it would be very hard to find anyone in Plymouth who could name more than one, if that. The idea behind a National Marine Park is that it takes a concept we all know, understand and value of a National Park, and applies it to the marine environment. Suddenly, you have public understanding of marine protection in a way that all the MCZs in the world don’t achieve. It is a gateway for understanding marine protections and helping people value the marine environment more.

Jeff: In my opinion, official marine parks in the UK are long over due and have always met fierce opposition especially from the fishing industry. What are the circumstances and conditions that have made this possible now?

Luke: The basic principle of a National Marine Park is that we must have sustainable environmental protections and sustainable economic activity. The drive to create a National marine park comes at the same time as there’s a real focus on fishing. Our local fleet has the potential to be more sustainable and more successful and that is why good dialogue between Government, councils and industry is needed to deliver improved sustainability locally.

Jeff: Will both commercial and recreational fishing in the park be regulated and enforced?

Luke: We are exploring with stakeholders about how a National Marine Park should work. There isn’t another UK marine park for us to follow so it is a bit of test and try. What we do know is that there are some very successful efforts by fishers and scientists to protect and repopulate different parts of our marine environment, minimise impact of fishing gear and value fishing more. It’s a work in progress here but we need a sustainable industry both environmentally and economically after all you can’t fish what isn’t there any more because of over-fishing.

Jeff: In a previous statement you mention the shock of seeing the BBC Blue Planet revelation of the state of our oceans. Have you always been concerned about the negative things we are doing to our planet or is this newly found?

Luke: As a young lad growing up in Devon, I remember swimming in the sea past floating turds and sanitary towels. That was because Britain used to flush our sewers right out to sea. It took billions of pounds and a national effort to achieve the clean and safe bathing waters around the south west coast. We need a similar national effort to deal with plastic pollution at home and abroad. Blue Planet II was a wake up call we must not ignore.

Jeff: Are you ever able to get out at sea and watch the incredible wildlife we have around our shores?

Luke: Very occasionally on the water via a kayak or stand up paddle board, but more likely from the coast paths around Plymouth.

Jeff: I cannot imagine the day when I won’t be able to get to the coast and be on the water. Do you snorkel or dive and been able to see first hand marine life in and around the shores of the UK?

Luke: I get so seasick which is rubbish for an MP who speaks so often about the importance of the Royal Navy, our fishing industry, marine science and our coastal waters. I do enjoy a bit of snorkelling and I’m a wild swimmer. There really is nothing better to relieve the stresses of Westminster than a swim in Plymouth Sound bobbing along with the waves on a sunny day and looking over the Hoe and foreshore. We are so lucky to have this on our doorstep and I want more people to take the plunge and explore our coast line whether on the coast path or by getting wet.

Jeff: Who do you think will be the main beneficiaries from the park?

Luke: We know that middle class folks tend to get the maximum returns from National Parks mainly because they can afford their own transport. I want to see the biggest benefits of a National Marine Park being those who come from our poorest communities. You only need to see the kids paddling in the sea on a sunny day in Plymouth to see how many are not wearing swimming costumes but underwear. Plymouth is one of the poorest cities in the country and being flanked by gorgeous countryside and beautiful beaches doesn’t change the economic challenges. But the sea is free and creating marine citizenship for every child so they understand and can engage with rock pools, waves and sandy beaches is vital. Some recent research found that in Plymouth – a city that prides itself on being Britain’s Ocean City – some 20% of kids have not even seen the sea. That needs to change. We have turned our back on the sea for far too long as a city and as a country and that needs to change.

Jeff: What will be the final budget needed to set the park up and keep it running and where will that money come from?

Luke: We have been successful in winning financial support from the Marine Management Organisation for some early work on the National Marine Park project. Final costs must match our ambition and that is being worked on now. I don’t want to see new levies or taxes to pay for the marine park. I think it needs to be an investment made by the city and our local businesses in its promotion and engagement. The National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth along with Plymouth Marine Laboratories and the Marine Biological Association have all committed effort to date and their enthusiasm and passion for the project is a real inspiration. The proposals have caught the imagination of marine scientists, engineers and local businesses as a way of telling the untold stories of our coast and coastal communities. I’m really excited about where this project is going and what it could achieve. The early stages are now underway but there is an awful lot of detail that still needs to be worked out ahead.

Jeff: Would the park create openings for park wardens and how would the park be enforced?

Luke: Plymouth Sound is already one of the most protected bits of water in the whole country. That’s protected by a range of government agencies and of course as Devonport is Western Europe’s largest Naval base, we have plenty of people with guns keeping an eye on our waters too! I think the concept of a national marine park needs to refresh enforcement and the best way to protect a bit of water is to have people value it and the diversity under the surface. The full details are being worked out but I really want to have the marine park tell the story of the people who work day in, day out protecting it already but the idea of park wardens as champions, educationalists and story tellers is something that has been proposed. We do need to protect our coastal waters and that means having the right people involved from Government and those conversations are starting to happen. It will take time but I think this is time well spent.

Jeff: I hope this will be a milestone in the future protection and longevity of our UK waters and wildlife. Will you personally take an interest in seeing this rolled out to the rest of the UK?

Luke: I want Plymouth Sound to be the UK’s first National Marine Park. That means we need to have a second, third, fourth, fifth in the pipeline. Britain’s coastline is incredible, with such beautiful diversity. I am certain there won’t be a shortage of candidates once the concept has been developed and rolled out in Plymouth.

Jeff: Is there anything now that we the general public can do to help this park become a reality?

Luke: Plymouth City Council who I passed the baton over to are consulting with local people and stakeholders and there’ll be events and consultations aplenty to contribute to in due course, but we don’t need to wait until a marine park is designated to make the most of our coastal waters today. So, visit a beach, go on a litter pick, reduce your plastic, learn to kayak or sail, walk on a beach or explore a coast path. At the moment, the biggest way people can get involved is to connect with the marine environment and share their stories.

Jeff: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. Please do keep us informed if you can as the project moves forward and I hope you get time to get out and enjoy our wonderful marine wildlife.

Jeff is a multiple award winning, freelance TV cameraman/film maker and author. Having made both terrestrial and marine films, it is the world's oceans and their conservation that hold his passion with over 10.000 dives in his career. Having filmed for international television companies around the world and author of two books on underwater filming, Jeff is Author/Programme Specialist for the 'Underwater Action Camera' course for the RAID training agency. Jeff has experienced the rapid advances in technology for diving as well as camera equipment and has also experienced much of our planet’s marine life, witnessing, first hand, many of the changes that have occurred to the wildlife and environment during that time. Jeff runs bespoke underwater video and editing workshops for the complete beginner up to the budding professional.


Join Murex Resorts in North Sulawesi and embark on a Passport to Paradise!



Are you planning your next tropical diving holiday? With literally the world at your feet and so many different types of diving to choose from it can be tough deciding where to go…

The Indonesian province of North Sulawesi lies in the heart of a marine rich region and offers incredible wall diving in the Bunaken Marine Park: wreck, critters and reef combinations in Manado Bay; colorful coral reefs surrounding Bangka island; and the world’s best muck diving in the Lembeh Strait. So how do you begin to choose which region to allocate your holiday time to?

Whilst many divers have heard of these world class diving destinations, many may not realize the close proximity within which they are located. Taking a scuba diving holiday in North Sulawesi does not mean that you have to choose between locations – you can see all that is on offer and explore the areas which appeal to you – IN ONE TRIP!!!

Bunaken Marine Park was one of the first Marine Protected Areas in Indonesia – and it shows! The dive sites around this small island are characterized by staggering coral walls which are teeming with life. The resident population of green sea turtles has grown from strength to strength and at some dive sites you’ll lose count of the number of turtles you see in a single dive.

North Sulawesi, Nord Sulawesi, Celebes Sea, Murex Manado

Manado Bay is home to wide ranging marine life and diverse dive sites. Manado Bay is becoming increasingly recognized for its black sand, muck diving sites, which are home to a plethora of unusual critters from numerous cephalopod species through to seahorses, nudibranch and crustaceans. The Molas wreck is an exciting wreck dive and also offers a myriad of fish and critters. To the South of Manado Bay lays Poopoh – a record breaking site where 385 different species of fish were recorded in just one morning.

Bangka Island is as beautiful underwater as it is on land. This white sand, paradise island is surrounded by kaleidoscopic, soft coral reefs. Schooling snappers, passing reef sharks, occasional dugongs and an array of reef fish and critters have all made Bangka Island their home. Bangka offers phenomenal diving coupled with the chance to completely get off the grid on this stunning, remote tropical island.

The Lembeh Strait is home to the highest concentration of rare and unusual marine life on Earth. Exploring Lembeh’s world famous muck diving sites is akin to opening a treasure chest of critters. Even the most seasoned of divers can’t help but be impressed by the species found here: eight different species of frogfish, flamboyant cuttlefish, wunderpus, mimic octopus, blue ring octopus, bobtail squids, harlequin shrimps, tiger shrimps, three species of pygmy seahorses, countless species of nudibranch, bobbit worms, Ambon scorpionfish and rhinopias – just to name but a few!

The idea of moving from resort to resort can seem arduous and result in wasted diving days – but in North Sulawesi this does not need to be the case! Stay with us at Murex Manado (for diving Bunaken and Manado), and smoothly transition to Murex Bangka and then on to Lembeh Resort too. You can choose the number of nights you wish to stay in each location and transfers between resorts are by boat and include two dives along the way! No wasted diving days, no logistical planning, no drying and packing gear and your dive guide will stay with you from start to finish. Dive your way, hassle free, from one place to the next. Two resort combinations are also available.

For those of you who want to experience the full diversity of Indonesia, choose from up to 150 dive sites and maximize your diving opportunities – a Passport to Paradise is the dive trip of a lifetime.

For more information or for enquiries:

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A Flying Visit to Nusa Penida, Bali



Once I’d organised my 6 day/5 night Jurassic Komodo trip, I knew, if I was going to travel all that way, I needed a bit more time to acclimatise and explore. With flying through Bali a popular route from the UK to Labuan Bajo, it made complete sense to spend a couple of days there before flying out. What better way to get the trip started than revisiting where my underwater photography journey started back in 2013 and diving around Nusa Penida? The opportunity came up to spend 2 nights with an amazing little dive resort on Nusa Penida Island called Pure Dive Resort, and it was the perfect start to my trip.

Pure Dive Resort was created in January 2019 after the owners sold their share in a dive resort they built on Ceningan, and has been operational since 1st May 2019. Pure Dive Resort has big plans to create a full-scale dive resort offering quality diving on Nusa Penida. Unfortunately, the Covid outbreak caused delays, and at the moment only the dive centre is operating. However, while I was there, you can see work is in full effect and the place is already looking amazing. After speaking to the owner Ark and the ambition he has for the place, it’s clear that Pure will be a sought-after resort on the island; a place focused on high service and safety standards, while concentrating on keeping it personal for each and every guest.

While the plans for the resort proceed, Pure Dive Resort are using Ring Sameton Hotel for their dive and stay packages, just a 2-minute stroll from the dive centre. Pure Dive Resort are running 2 custom built dive boats, each capable of taking up to 14 divers (including guides) onboard. I for one was very impressed with the dive boat and how spacious and comfortable it was, especially as ‘Manta Point’ is quite a ride away and it can be a little choppy; however, on this occasion the journey was a super comfortable and a fun ride out. The boats are equipped with marine radios, 2×100 4 stroke engines, emergency O2 and life jackets, keeping safety paramount. Not only is Pure Dive Resort a well-equipped dive centre, it also has a freediving school, and they use their own custom-built boat with the capacity of a maximum of 10 freedivers onboard.

While I was impressed with the professionalism and facilities of Pure Dive Resort, it was the equipment for hire and the capabilities of the centre which really stood out. As I was flying to Labuan Bajo late the next day, and I was only scheduled for 3 dives, I was reluctant to use my own dive gear for fear of drying time. I requested a wetsuit and BCD and was really impressed with the quality on offer. Almost brand new ScubaPro equipment is available, and you can see it is well looked after and kept in perfect order in a dry room at the back of the centre. So, after the formalities were over, it was time to get familiar with diving in Nusa Penida once again. Our first dive was scheduled for ‘Manta Point’, easily the most famous/popular dive site of Nusa Penida. I was really looking forward to getting back to a dive site that was the catalyst for me becoming an underwater photographer 10 years ago. The journey to ‘Manta Point’ is an adventure in itself, and just adds to the experience. The rough and ready coastline of dramatic cliffs, pounded by a lively sea, leave you in awe, as the rising sun breaks over the top of the island, creating dramatic rays of light through the spray and mist. The boat skips along the surface, with the excitement building over every swell.

After around a 45-minute journey, we arrived at ‘Manta Point’ earlier than a lot of the other boats that were heading there, thanks to Pure Dive Resort working to create the best experience for their guests and aiming to beat the crowds. Ark was my dive guide for the dive and one other diver would join us. After a thorough dive briefing, where you could tell Ark was very knowledgeable about the area, dive site and mantas, we dropped in and were soon graced by the presence of a black-morph manta ray. Honestly, it couldn’t have been much more than 2 minutes into the dive and the manta went gliding over my head. What a start! Two more manta rays were seen during the dive, but they didn’t seem to want to stay around. That’s wildlife for you; you can’t guarantee the manta rays will circle above you for the whole dive. We still got guaranteed manta rays and saw three, along with a fever of blue spotted stingrays all huddled together on the reef floor. A great start to my trip, and seeing a manta ray within 2 minutes of entering the water is pretty incredible.

Our manta fix wasn’t quite finished though. While we headed back along Nusa Penida to our next dive site, we stopped at a known manta feeding spot for juveniles. It’s an area where a lot of the snorkelling boats go to experience manta rays, and sure enough, we could see a lot of activity in the bay. Ark made the decision to take us over and see what kind of action was happening. It wasn’t long before we spotted a large black shape breaking the surface, and Ark asked if we’d like to jump in and snorkel. It was a unanimous decision and we were dropped in the path of the manta ray. More incredible manta moments were had, as it passed by circling the bay area as it fed. I managed to grab some cool shots showing the contrast of the top of the manta to the seafloor. Nusa Penida really is a unique place and great for manta ray interactions.

After a brief snorkel, we were soon back on the boat skipping across the surface to our next port of call located on the North West side of Nusa Penida. Our next dive site of choice was ‘Pura Ped’, a sloping hill reaching down from the surface creating a gradual descent broken up with stunning hard and soft coral spread throughout the site. The visibility was just amazing, and while Ark kept an eye on the depths in the hope of seeing Mola Mola, I concentrated on the reef and marvelled at the amazing coral on show. While we had no luck with Mola Mola, Titan triggerfish, huge pufferfish and three hawksbill turtles kept me entertained throughout a thoroughly peaceful dive.

Before I descended for my third dive of the day. We ventured back to the dive centre and enjoyed an incredibly tasty lunch, included with a dive day package. The Soto Ayam in the restaurant opposite the dive centre was bursting with flavour and well needed after two great dives.

My third dive was to concentrate on some macro critters that call Nusa Penida home, and Intan was highly recommended to be my guide. Intan had a big reputation with the other guides who said she was incredible at finding the small stuff. I wasn’t originally planning on doing any macro, so it was lucky that my room wasn’t far, and I rushed back to change my lens. The dive site also wasn’t far, as we made a short journey out to ‘SD Point’. I’m so glad I switched to macro and could witness and document the diversity of diving here. Intan’s reputation was well deserved, as she continually pointed out some amazing critters, with leaf scorpionfish, peacock mantis shrimp, scorpionfish, nudibranch, porcelain crab and more spotted throughout another amazing dive.

My trip to Nusa Penida with Pure Dive Resort was short and sweet, and left me wanting a lot more. A day of diving was nowhere near enough that’s for sure, with Ark confident he can find Mola Mola within a few days during the high season of August and September. I feel a trip must be planned for that time next year to explore so much more that this area has to offer. I feel I also missed out on exploring more of the island and its rugged beauty. A trip across to Kelingking Beach is a must next time (even though it is the quintessential tourist view of Bali). While I enjoyed meals at Penida Minang and Penida Colada, a week of culinary exploration is also much needed while I take in the sites. The only question I have now is – ‘Who’s joining me and Pure Dive Resort for an amazing week in Nusa Penida?’

For more information about diving in Nusa Penida:

Whatsapp: +62 811 3999 852

Sean Chinn Instagram: @greatwhitesean 


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