Britain's marine environment in bad shape, says WWF
A depressing indictment of the state of Britain's seas has been issued by the WWF. It says many habitats and species are in 'crisis' following years of inadequately controlled exploitation.
The WWF's Marine Health Check 2005 report paints a picture of decimated species and seabeds ravaged by the competing demands of fishing, aquaculture, extraction and oil and gas exploration. The report was commissioned from the Marine Life Information Network at the Marine Biological Association of the UK, in Plymouth.
The WWF has called on the Government to place a cohesive, environmentally conscious management plan for sea useage at the heart of its forthcoming Marine Bill.
Bottom-trawling, for catches such as scallops, and dredging for sand and gravel are particular culprits, says the WWF. Mussel beds, maerl beds, deep-water muds and reefs, salt marshes, seagrass beds and native oyster beds have all been affected.
Species including seahorses, anemones, Thames herring and common skate have suffered, as well as the well documented cod and Atlantic salmon.
Backing its call for a Marine Act governing sea useage, the WWF has prepared its own draft Marine Bill with proposals on strategic planning. It would also like to see more marine protected areas, to add to the three established at Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel, Skomer Island in Pembrokeshire, and Strangford Loch in Northern reland.
The Department of Environment is expected to release its own report on the state of Britain's seas in March, as background for work on the Government's Marine Bill.