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For more information please click on the links in the 'Contact' page.
Updates on the Marine Concern Petitions can be found on the Sustainable Seas Page (after the Plastic, Plastic, Plastic Section).
Scottish Public Parliamentary Petitions
Current: Referred back to REC Committee
Closed-Containment for salmon farms in Scotland PE01715
The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee
Wednesday 27 November. About 11.30am
You can watch the Committee meeting on Scottish Parliament TV in Committee Room 2: https://www.scottishparliament.tv/
Alternatively, you can watch in the public gallery in the Committee Room at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Information on attending is here:https://www.parliament.scot/visitandlearn/28753.aspx
As an estimate, I expect the petition to be considered at around 11.30 am
A fulmar in the Arctic Ocean, these birds follow ships for hundreds of miles.
Soaring on air currents produced by the ships they glide from port to starboard and back,
sometimes dipping to the seas surface to recover food in the ship's wake.
Never before have the Earth's resources been put under so much pressure. One of the main issues is that of the human population and aspirations to 'improve' and grow. Generally, the western world uses far greater resources per-capita. The problems that Earth faces are complex, not just a question of population but also a combination of population, life-style and industrial growth. It was once suggested that we would never over-fish global stocks, we still empty rubbish into the oceans as if they are bottomless; our actions have adverse effects. We don't fully understand marine ecosystem interactions; our concept of, "out of sight, out of mind" and profit over environmental issues, prevails.
Orca with a White Sided Dolphin, one of the 'residents' in the Johnson Strait of Canada's west coast. The residents are fish eaters; over-fishing and the growth of salmon farms are having an adverse effect.
The Box Theory
The 'Box Theory': Putting it simply, we live in a 'box' or rather a sphere; nothing can come in or go out. Now that the human population has exceeded seven billion, the earth is literally bulging at the seams. Commercial resources are under great pressure and the question of what to do with the waste has not been thoroughly thought through.
We are now starting to see the effect on our oceans, nowhere free from plastics, nowhere safe from exploitation or pollution. Unbridled growth has a cost, from climate change to biodiversity loss. Conditions are changing, species are threatened, anthropogenic activities are causing major unbalance to Earth systems.
Walrus, one of the Arctic's iconic mammals. These mammals have evolved to deal with the freezing waters, oddly enough they need ice in order to haul-out, warm and rest, especially the young. Arctic ice is becoming thinner and covering less sea area year on year, making existence for these animals harder.
Science has long been aware that Earth's oceans have a huge effect on the climate, but it has only been more recently that we have seen advances in marine science and the major implications that our actions have not only on the climate, but seawater acidity, marine ecosystems and the food-web.
The Rio 'Earth' Summit in 1992 raised issues about Climate Change and more than 150 countries signed up to its accords. At last, governments, except now the US under Trump, are starting to take it seriously. Will it be enough, will it be in time to actually make a difference or will governments slip back and renege on their commitments?
During the Earth Summit, Biodiversity Loss was also part of the agenda, also signed up to by the 150 or so countries however, biodiversity appears to have taken a back-seat on the world scene but in the marine environment, where we still don't fully understand the effects of food-web interactions, this lack of action may just come back to haunt us!
The Global problem with plastic has been highlighted for years but few have taken it seriously, until now it seems. BBC's Blue Planet II was 2017 best-watched program with more than 14 million people watching. The plastic problem was highlighted with graphic scenes. As a result, the public is better informed and many are concerned for the future. The UK government purportedly raised the bar by addressing the issue; a 'World Leader' they stated but giving a 25-year time scale is hardly taking the matter sincerely, we need to act and act now.
Ghost Fishing: This discarded fishing net was photographed high up in the Arctic Circle, north of 80 Degrees!
Close to the ice pack, this fishing net may have been covered, uncovered, and covered, again and again by annual ice cycles. It may have circled the Arctic, even the Atlantic by ocean gyres for many years.
Ghost fishing kills indiscriminately.
A Polar Bear or 'Ice Bear' as they are often called. Pictured of the east coast of Greenland.
Ice loss is causing a major problem for the Arctic. Some of the loss is due to climatic change, but the input of fresh water from melts is accelerating sea water change, reducing sea water density, reducing the deep water movement.
The greatest and fastest changes can be observed in the polar regions, they act like a Global thermometer, and we now know that it is these regions that are vital to the Global ocean conveyor. Cold dense seawater sinks in the Arctic, this is the 'kick-start', a slowing here has the ability to alter climatic patterns. The Gulf Stream could slow affecting the whole North Atlantic and wider.
We have learnt the importance of El Nino and La Nina events in the Pacific and just how disruptive these ocean current changes are to terrestrial weather, which in turn effects us big time.
Warming Seas - Warm Seas
It is not just the polar regions that are under threat; coral reefs, atolls and low lying islands are in dire straits.
Warming seas bring their own problems from sea level rise from thermal expansion to more extreme climatic events, warmer air carries more water; larger temperature extremes are the root cause of tropical storms, which often are not limited to the tropics.
Warm seas are not exempt from the effects, a minor alteration in coral growing regions is sufficient to cause 'bleaching', long term bleaching is causing mass die-offs around the world. Ocean acidification causes corals to dissolve further disrupting this unique habitat.
Changes in species diversity has unknown effects on trophic levels.
Whole islands, island communities and huge areas of densely populated land are at risk of becoming submerged.
Regions of oligotrophic waters rely on differing systems to support life, coral reefs are one such ecosystem which is under threat.
Coral bleaching, where the coral polyps expel the algae component causes major disruption and can cause the death of the entire reef.
Problems from fishing of the top predators causes untold and often unknown turmoil to food webs. Ocean acidification bleaches corals, one of the globes greatest habitats in nutrient deficient waters.
In fact many of the world's major cities lie close to sea level and are at threat from rising tides and storm surges.
Times are changing BUT are we going far enough, fast enough?
Climate change and biodiversity loss have been high up in the media recently, helped by BBC’s Blue Planet ll and the Schools Strike, then politicians get in on the act; “Change by 2050”, Change by 20?? And some environmentalists want change by 2025.
What’s possible? What’s needed? How can we do it?
Two consultations have been banded around recently, firstly, The proposals on a ‘Circular Economy’ and secondly, a call for evidence regarding ‘Highly Protected Marine Areas’ (links below).
Before we start it is important to point out that Great Britain is no longer, ‘GREAT’, rather devolved and many powers have been redistributed to the four nations but in order to confuse matters, Westminster retains some as well. If that were not easy to follow, Brexit or not Brexit will also add to the mix of confusion. Whatever your views on the EU, some of our strongest and most wide-reaching marine protection originates from the EU! Natura 2000 and the Habitats Directive. We are going to use a few acronyms like, SPAs & SACs without explanation and no apologies as hopefully you will see why in the next paragraph.
Over recent years there have been numerous attempts to afford protection to various marine locations, these have taken various forms and names attributed to them. Here are just a few,- MPAs, HPMAs, SACs, SPAs, MNPs, Marine Reserves, Highly Protected Marine Reserves and that’s without going into legislation that protects various marine animals like cetaceans which have their own specialist designations….OR DO THEY?
With so much being ‘PROTECTED’ one could think well what’s the problem, why do we need MORE! Part of the problem here lies firmly with the politicians, many pressurised by the powerful fishing and aquaculture industries. “Yes we will establish MPAs but don’t worry they won’t stop any of your damaging, exploitive activities”. What followed were HPMAs and so on. This is where the term, “Paper-Parks” comes from, something Scotland is good at!
Lost with the acronyms? Well actually it doesn’t matter what you call them if they DO NOT AFFORD Protection then they are ALL just about USLESS! So, the names given, the acronyms that follow are almost meaningless. That is unless they include areas of NO-TAKE and in some places NO-PUT, these are known as the, - “No-Take-Zones” and when policed properly with penalties at actually deter then we start to make a difference.
This is not about being long haired hippies, just being pragmatic, the human population now well exceeds 7 Billion people and what we do has a massive effect on the planet, which in turn has an effect on us and our ability to survive. We don’t use the word, ‘survive’ lightly as if we do nothing then it will be our survival at stake. We hear some say what’s the point, what difference will be recycling ONE bottle make BUT if done properly this is NOT JUST ONE bottle, it could be 7 Billion bottles! Multiplied by the numbers used over a lifetime….that adds up. As for those that say, I want to keep my lifestyle, jetting off to all corners of the World, there are other means and even they could try being less of a burden as it is OUR children and everything else that will suffer. Two simple ways forward are circular economy and no-take-zones.
“A circular economy is one in which resources are kept in use for as long as possible. It can benefit the environment, by cutting waste and carbon emissions; the economy, by improving productivity and opening up new markets; and communities, by providing local employment opportunities”.
This consultation has just started so you can contribute if you wish.
The now disbanded Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution produced a report called ‘Turning the Tide’, one of the most important sections for future sustainability was the need for ‘No-Take-Zones and with current pressures to assist in future fisheries etc. called for 30% of sea area to be “No-Take”.
Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) are the next nearest thing and DEFRA ran a consultation which is now closed, we await the outcome but it is not rocket science to understand that protecting specific areas will be beneficial from the mass exploitation, much of it damaging, meeting the immediate needs of 7 + Billion people.
On top of that even today with our modern scientific equipment and understanding we don’t fully understand the intricacies of marine ecosystems and the adverse effects of our actions…that’s why we introduced the Precautionary Principle, and it was signed up to by around 150 countries at the Rio (Earth) Summit in 1992.
We don’t need MORE consultations; we NEED action before it is too late. What we do know about are, ‘tipping points’ and Positive and Negative Feedback loops, these exacerbate a situation, they are known to accelerate conditions some good, some not so much!
Circular Economy and No-Take-Zones are just two ways to help overcome the burden of our bulging population, it would be a start in the right direction but it needs to be in action not just parked in some political history book….the elephant in the room; nearly 8 Billion people and the methods to sustain them!
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NB. All photographic stills are copyright © of Mark-MC.