United Kingdom Coalesces Around Goal to Protect 30% of the World’s Oceans by 2030

Photo Credit: Jeff Yonover

Photo Credit: Jeff Yonover

The United Kingdom is pushing the global community to adopt more ambitious targets to protect the Earth’s oceans. The UK’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove made the call for other nations to increase the pace of ocean protections in advance of last month’s United Nations General Assembly, saying:

“Protection of our oceans is a global challenge which requires global action. The UK has already safeguarded vast swathes of precious marine habitats, but we must go further. Only by working together can we protect our shared home and ensure our marine life continues to be a source of awe and wonder for future generations.”

The global community has made strides in protecting the planet’s oceans in recent years. Since 2010, marine protected area coverage has increased by over 14 million km². In 2000, only 0.67 percent of the Earth’s oceans were designated as marine protected areas. Today, over 7 percent of the planet’s oceans are covered by protected areas. Looking only at marine areas directly controlled by nations, the area of protected oceans rises to over 17 percent.

But UK’s leaders are calling on nations to set even more ambitious goals as the global community works to stem the tide of the conservation crisis, which has precipitated historic levels of species extinctions and growing concerns about the health of the planet’s fisheries.

As the UK’s Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan urged:

“It is imperative that we act now to save our ocean from unsustainable activities and protect its unique ecosystems which we still know so little about. This 30 percent global target to improve ocean management and protection is both ambitious and achievable and we encourage our international partners to take action now.”

The global community has a golden opportunity to increase the scale of protected areas—both marine- and land-based—over the coming two years. The Convention on Biological Diversity Conference of Parties will meet next month in Egypt with an eye towards a 2020 meeting in China, where nations will set new goals for global action to protect the planet’s lands, waters, and wildlife.

Beutler Ink