Waders at Gibraltar Point © Robin Cosgrove
The Marine Acts will bring in wide-ranging new powers to plan, licence and manage marine industry. Only if these powers are used in a coherent way, putting the health of the marine environment at the heart of decision-making, will they bring about a return to Living Seas.
The pressure on UK seas to provide services and resources has never been greater. More and more commercial activities are shifting into the sea, or developing there, as industry overcomes the technological challenges and realises the economies of operating on a vast scale in the open ocean.
The fastest growing sector is marine energy. The pressure is on to extract every possible drop from the UK’s dwindling offshore oil and natural gas reserves. Once empty, there are plans to use the oil and gas fields to store imported gas.
Meanwhile, the UK’s ambitious renewable energy targets will only be met through a massive expansion – and most of this is set to take place at sea, through windfarms, wave farms, barrages and tidal turbines. The construction industry also is increasingly looking to the seas, rather than quarries on land, to provide sand and gravel, while growth in shipping and marine leisure is creating demand for new port and marina facilities.
The natural ability of a healthy sea to regulate the atmosphere, climate and weather is of enormous value. There are proposals to use the sea to tackle climate change in artificial ways – for example by capturing and storing carbon dioxide under the sea.