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The Great British Oceans coalition has outlined our expectations for the upcoming UK International Ocean Strategy.

30 January 2019

Last year the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) announced they would be developing a new, whole of government International Ocean Strategy.

“The Government will agree and implement a new oceans strategy, under the aegis of the FCO, which will cover work from departments including Defra, BEIS, DfT and DIT.” – FCO press release 22 June 2018

In our experience, the UK Government has been at its most effective in marine matters when it is working in a coordinated fashion across government. We therefore welcome the FCO’s initiative to establish a cross-departmental strategy for the ocean.

As the UK is the custodian of one of the most biologically rich and diverse marine real estates in the world, we have urged the FCO to include conservation front and centre as the core priority in the strategy. Furthermore, we believe that conservation efforts should reflect the holistic nature of the ocean by seeking to put in place a network of ecologically connected and representative marine protected areas (MPAs) to provide for resilience to climate change, and conserve ocean resources for future generations.

What we'd like to see

It is our hope that the final International Ocean Strategy includes:


  • Continued support for the implementation of the Blue Belt policy that recognises the importance of fully protected MPAs.
  • A commitment to continued financial support for surveillance and enforcement of the Blue Belt MPAs for the duration of the strategic plan. Funding currently expires in March 2020 and, if left to lapse, will undermine the UK’s position as a global leader in ocean conservation.
  • A reiteration of Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s call for 30 per cent of world’s oceans to be protected by 2030. This commitment represents a significant increase on the current Convention on Biological Diversity target of 10% by 2020, and the latest research suggests 30% is the minimum required to safeguard global marine life and ecosystem services into the future.
  • Replacement of EU environment funding for the Territories so that the UK can continue to protect the communities and wildlife of these precious places.
  • Leadership in United Nations efforts to create a strong legal instrument to protect biodiversity on the High Seas. The UK should work to increase ambition within the EU and take a demonstratively stronger conservation position in these negotiations after it leaves the EU. The UK should also mobilise its diplomatic network and the highest levels of Government to ensure agreement of an ambitious new Treaty by 2020.
  • Maintenance of monitoring and surveillance efforts out to a 100 nautical mile High Seas ‘buffer zone’ around each of the existing Blue Belt sites, in order to provide an early indicator to the international community as to what leadership in High Seas protection could look like.
  • Provision of continued UK leadership to create a network of marine sanctuaries in the Antarctic through the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.
  • Leadership in securing more effective conservation performance from Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs). The UK has the additional opportunity to take a demonstratively stronger conservation position at RFMOs after it leaves the EU.