December 10, 2017

Britain must designate its marine territories as ‘bluebelt’ to protect its wildlife and stop plastic pollution from destroying the world’s oceans, claim campaigners

News Source: Daily Mail

Author(s): Phoebe Weston

Britain must designate overseas territories as 'bluebelt' to protect sea life and stop plastic pollution further poisoning the world's oceans, campaigners have urged.

Following the last episode of Planet Earth II, the Great British Oceans coalition has urged the UK government to protect endangered species by safeguarding remote marine zones.

The campaign is to create 1.5 million square miles (4 million square kilometres) of protected 'bluebelt' around seven of the 14 British Overseas Territories.

If the plan goes through, it could create the largest network of marine reserves in the world.

The territories included in the scheme are Ascension Island, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, Pitcairn Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Saint Helena and Tristan da Cunha.

Within this area is breeding grounds for a quarter of the world's penguins, a third of albatrosses, endangered turtles and the largest's coral atoll on Earth, according to the Great British Ocean website.

The organisation aims to get the government to establish 300,000 square miles (500,000 square kilometres) of Marine Protected Area in the South Sandwich islands next year.

Already 133 MPs have backed the 'bluebelt' campaign.

'Through the actions of successive governments, the UK has demonstrated global leadership in ocean conservation', the website said.

'We call on the UK to reaffirm this leadership by working with the governments of the Overseas Territories to deliver on Blue Belt pledges.'

The organisation aims to establish a protected Marine Protected Area in at least 50 per cent of Ascension Island’s waters in 2019.

They also want a marine protection regime in Tristan da Cunha by 2020.

Another campaign led by a coalition of groups including the Marine Conservation Society, is calling for 30 per cent of global oceans to be turned into marine sanctuaries.

'We have found a growing tide of plastic pollution on UK shores, and must act now to stem that tide', Sandy Luk of the Marine Conservation Society told the Telegraph.

'The UK's influence on the waters of all of the world's ocean is immense, and we call on UK governments to show leadership at this crucial moment to protect some of the natural jewels of our fragile blue planet.'

The campaign #BackTheBlueBelt is backed by Blue Marine Foundation, Greenpeace, the Marine Conservation Society, The Pew Trusts, RSPB and Zoological Society of London.

Blue Planet II has highlighted the devastating effect of waste on our oceans.

In the final episode, viewers witnessed an albatross chick dying from eating a plastic toothpick that pierced its intestine and a sperm whale tries to eat a blue plastic bucket – confusing it for food.

Seen by more than 17 million Britons, and hundreds of millions of viewers around the world, the nature documentary is helping to pressure governments to tackle the plastic menace.

An earlier instalment carried haunting shots of a pilot whale calf believed to have died from plastic pollution.

Lucy Quinn, of the British Antarctic Survey Team, demonstrated how albatross chicks are suffering from eating our waste.

She said the population of the birds in South Georgia in the South Atlantic has been falling for four decades, with some of the decline blamed on discarded plastic fishing gear and other rubbish.

'Albatrosses have the ability to cough up bits of food that they can't digest, and from that we can tell what they have been eating,' Dr Quinn said.

The researchers found the birds had swallowed plastic food bags among other discarded items.

Explaining how the chick died, Dr Quinn said: 'Unfortunately there was a plastic toothpick that had actually gone through the stomach. Something just as small as that has managed to kill the bird. It's really sad.'

The amount of rubbish in Britain's seas has increased by more than 150 per cent in a year, figures from last month showed.

Plastic items, including bags and bottles, accounted for nearly all the litter found last year.

MPs said the 'damning' report highlighted the need for Ministers to take urgent action to clean up Britain's coastal waters.

The Daily Mail has led the way on ending the plastic menace, calling for restrictions on bottles, bags, toxic microbeads and coffee cups.