Stephen Eades – Have the Government and the marine NGOs destroyed hope? – Sep 15

In his book Feral on our need to reintroduce both plant and animal species which we have lost from our rivers, forests, seas, hills and mountains, George Monbiot quotes the thoughts of a colleague who observes:

“The environmental movement up till now has necessarily been reactive. We have been clear about what we don’t like. But we also need to say what we would like. We need to show where hope lies. Ecological restoration is a work of hope.”

These words ring with a deep resonance. They reflect the experience of Marinet so accurately that they can almost be said to be the truth.

The decline in the health of our seas is well recorded, and much lamented. From eminent marine scientists and conservationists, located all over the world, come the unsettlingly messages of this uncomfortable reality – and our reaction, born of hope and optimism, is to ask ourselves, can it really be that bad?

Regrettably, the answer is most probably yes. The biodiversitybiodiversity Biological diversity in an environment as indicated by numbers of different species of plants and animals. of our seas and oceans has been, and continues to be, breaking down. The range and diversity of species within the main structures is shrinking, and the populations of species within those structures is declining. This is a definition of ecological collapse.

To counter this message of despair, there must be a message of hope. Such is the essence of survival.

For myself, and I believe many others, this message of hope is encapsulated in a management tool which we know can transform things — the marine reserve.

We know that if we cease to exploit a place in a ruthless way, then nature is a force that will regenerate. When the rape has been very severe probably not to the degree of diversity that existed before, but at least in a manner that rekindles and sustains the essential spirit of life.

Hope therefore is reborn, and replaces despair.

In the UK, the marine conservation zone (MCZMCZ Marine Conservation Zone) is our “marine reserve”. The power to create MCZsMCZ Marine Conservation Zone was created by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

However, a number of things trouble Marinet.

First, the power to create MCZs which protect the whole marine ecosystem within the reserve — the “real” marine reserve — was not offered by Government when it set out the terms of the 2009 Act. Marinet sought to create this power in the legislation, and to empower our hope and ability to conserve. We even secured the tabling and debate of an amendment in the House of Commons to create this power (supported by the Conservative and Lib-Dem parties when they formed the Opposition to Labour led by Gordon Brown). When the vote came we failed to win a majority in the House; but, more worryingly, was the fact that all the other marine NGOs refused to support Marinet in this amendment. They told the world that they did, but in reality they did not.

Even more significant, viewed from the perspective of today, is that in 2009 these NGOs turned their back on hope.

Now we have a Conservative Government, in its second term. Has it delivered the “real” version of the marine reserve in the form of MCZs — as they voted for in 2009? No, the Coalition Government had the opportunity in 2010 but decided not to deliver, and the present Government has acted no differently.

Since 2009, 127 sites have been identified as qualifying as Marine Conservation Zones. Yet so far only 27 of these sites have been actually designated as MCZs, and a further 37 are being “consulted” upon. The target of 127 remains seriously unfulfilled.

This has prompted one marine scientist to observe that MCZ delivery is worse than bad. This is because people believe that marine reserves exist, and are effective in delivering marine conservation. Whereas in reality they do not in the main exist; and, in the case of those reserves that do exist, their management is very weak. Hence MCZs are largely illusory, and everyone has been duped.

Worse still. Marinet now finds that the Government wants to discharge liquid radioactive waste in to the Blackwater, Colne, Roach and Crouch Estuary MCZ, Essex, from the old Magnox nuclear power station at Bradwell. This MCZ hosts the last extensive native oyster beds in England.

So like the marine NGOs who turned their backs on hope in 2009, the Government is now destroying hope in 2015.

Yes, George, we agree with your colleague: “We have been clear about what we don’t like. But we also need to say what we would like. We need to show where hope lies. Ecological restoration is a work of hope.”

Yes, ecological restoration is a work of hope. Marine reserves are that hope.

Marinet calls upon everyone to promote and defend them.

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