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Marine Life & Conservation

UK Government makes international commitments but fails to follow through with ocean promises at home



Hosting an event in Montreal to highlight the value of properly managed Marine Protected Areas at COP15 Ocean Action Day, the Marine Conservation Society, Blue Marine Foundation and Whale and Dolphin Conservation issued a joint call for the UK to pick up the pace on delivery of ocean protection at home.   

On the final day of COP15, promising steps were made, with agreement that 30% of sea, in addition to 30% of land, must be fully protected by 2030. This is touted as being the biodiversity equivalent of the Paris Agreement on climate change. 

The UK Government claims that 38% of our seas around the UK are in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The reality is very different, as most of these sites are little more than lines on a map – with even the most damaging activities, like bottom-trawling, allowed. So far, bans have been implemented for just 4 out of the 40 offshore English MPAs. The UK Government has a long way to go in delivering on a ban on bottom-towed gear in England’s offshore MPAs by the end of 2024. 

Anna Gelderd, Head of Strategic Advocacy at the Marine Conservation Society said: “This week, nearly 200 countries committed to protecting 30% of land and sea by 2030. This is an important moment. A rallying cry for global ambition. Now, the global community has eight years to deliver. Focus must turn from quantity to quality – and to delivery at home. Meaningfully managed Marine Protected Areas are one of the most effective tools we have to fix the current nature crisis and reverse biodiversity loss. 

Last week, the Marine Conservation Society released research showing there has been a 98% decrease in bottom-towed fishing in the English Dogger Bank MPA since June this year, when a byelaw to ban this fishing practice was introduced demonstrating the effectiveness of byelaws.  

Charles Clover, co-founder and executive director of Blue Marine Foundation said:The world did not have an agreement to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030 before, but it does now. That is very much to be welcomed. On a global stage there are countries who will be under serious pressure now as the 30% of their waters for some is a standing start. In the UK, it will make sure that 30% protection, which actually conserves species and habitats, is achieved. 

“However, this is not a legally binding document. Delivery will rely on countries at the forefront of ocean protection to bring others along with them, highlighting the social and economic benefits of protection – which are considerable – to ultimately carry the day.” 

However, it’s not just fishing activity that is hampering the recovery of Marine Protected Areas. Pollution of our seas is playing an increasing role in biodiversity loss. From plastics, to microplastics, raw sewage and ‘forever chemicals’, all building up over time an creating a toxic soup. In 2018, Defra set out to publish a Chemicals Strategy to curb pollution but nearly 5 years on, no strategy has been published. 

Ed Goodall, Green Whale manager at Whale and Dolphin Conservation said: “Chemical pollution is devastating marine life in UK waters including the west coast population of orca in Scotland, which is now down to around just eight individuals. At the same time, we know that whales bring climate and biodiversity benefits, so restoring their populations by eliminating threats takes on additional urgency.” 

The Marine Conservation Society, Blue Marine Foundation and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation are hoping that momentum from COP15 will encourage the UK Government to act urgently on their promises at home in order to achieve what was signed in Montreal.  

Only time will tell if the Government follow through with their promises on MPAs, but with the climate and nature crisis intensifying, it is of paramount importance that the biodiversity of our seas is truly protected.  

Marine Life & Conservation

UK Shark Fin ban moves closer to becoming law



Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation’s relentless campaigns to make Britain shark fin-free reached a new milestone last week when a private member’s bill to ban the import and export of shark fins was voted through parliament with unanimous cross-party support.

The bill is now scheduled for three readings in the House of Lords and, if successful, it will then go to King Charles for Royal Ascent and become law.

Campaign director for Bite-Back, Graham Buckingham, said:

“Our goal of ending Britain’s ties with the global shark fin trade is within our reach. This country has a dark history of exporting around 20 tonnes of shark fins every year and it remains legal to bring up to 20kg of dried shark fins through Customs without needing to declare it. This bill could represent a significant blow to the multi-million-pound shark fin industry. It’s now down to the House of Lords to smooth its path to the palace.”

Since July 2022 the charity has been consulting the Labour MP Christina Rees who put forward the private member’s bill after the government failed to bring its Animal Welfare Bill, that promised to ban the import and export of shark fins, into law last year.

To help improve support for the bill, Bite-Back also created a briefing document on the issues for all MPs to reference. During the bill’s final reading in the House of Commons MPs from different parties wholeheartedly endorsed the ban on the import and export of shark fins.

In her closing statement Christina Rees MP said that she hoped this bill would ‘drive up the standards of global shark conservation’.

Bite-Back will now turn its attention to educating and inspiring members of the House of Lords to vote in favour of a ban.

Follow the bill’s progress at and learn how you can get involved in supporting shark conservation initiatives in the UK.

Header image: Finned sharks underwater- Copyright – Scubazoo.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Shark Trust calls for global shark citizen scientists



Never let a shark sighting go to waste!

The Shark Trust has launched a new smartphone app that makes it simple for everyone to get involved in shark science and conservation. The new app brings together five citizen science projects into one place, allowing users to report: shark sightings, eggcase finds, Basking Shark observations, angling catches, and incidents of shark entanglement with marine litter.

Through these projects, anyone with an interest in sharks, skates and rays can contribute to important research and have a lot of fun along the way. The findings can be submitted from anywhere in the world and will help scientists by providing a range of vital data from some of the 1200+ species of sharks, skates and rays that swim in our ocean.

As users submit their findings across the five citizen science projects, they will build a logbook of their research contributions. These are saved in their profile and shared with the wider community, so users can see what other people have recently been discovering.

Alongside this important citizen science aspect, there are also 50 collectible shark cards to unlock: 30 bronze cards, 15 silver cards, and five gold cards. Submitting to any of the projects unlocks a card at random, so you never know what you’re going to find!

Shark Trust App for Great Eggcase Hunt: Image by James Harris

The Shark Trust’s flagship citizen science project, the Great Eggcase Hunt, which encourages the public to find the empty eggcases (or mermaid’s purses) of sharks and skate on the beach or submit those seen developing in situ, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Senior Conservation Officer Cat Gordon says “We’re really excited to be celebrating the Great Eggcase Hunt’s 20th anniversary this year! As part of the celebrations, we’re releasing this brand-new citizen science app, hosting a public evening event, and planning a special edition of the Trust’s membership magazine Shark Focus. The project has grown substantially since 2003, when we received just 128 records in the first year, to having a staggering 50,212 individual eggcases recorded in 2022 alone! In total, we’ve received over 370,000 eggcases since the project began, and we hope the app inspires even more people to get out and about in search of mermaid’s purses!

The Great Eggcase Hunt element of the app features eggcases from species which can be found in the Northeast Atlantic, as well as those in Australia (working in partnership with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation). In time we will add identification materials from more regions, but until then, records can still be submitted from outside these areas. This app replaces the previous Great Eggcase Hunt app which was launched in 2014 – so if you previously used that then please delete it and download the new version!

If you are interested in sharks, skates and rays and want to help contribute towards research and conservation, the Shark Trust citizen science app is for you. Everyone from the occasional beachgoer to seasoned divers and anglers can get involved.

Paul Cox, Shark Trust CEO, says “For a while we’ve wanted to make it easier and more fun for people to identify and record their sightings. Thanks to a generous donation from Animal Friends Pet Insurance, we’ve been able to create this great tool with local gamification specialists, Kazow Games. We’re really excited to get this app out into the world and start to see more recorders getting involved with our projects.”

Search for ‘Shark Trust’ in the relevant app store, download the app today, and start recording your findings. We are already working on some exciting updates and are still welcoming feedback, so if you have opportunity to try it out, please let us know what you think!

Let’s build a global community of citizen scientists who can help protect these incredible animals together!

Find out more on the Shark Trust website.

Header image: James Harris

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