THE decision to reject plans to protect Jersey’s waters from overfishing by creating a marine park was last night called a ‘missed opportunity’ by a prominent environmentalist.
Discussing the previous States Assembly’s choice not to adopt a proposed marine national park as part of the Bridging Island Plan, Charles Clover, executive director of the Blue Marine Foundation, said: ‘That seems to me to be a clear case of a missed opportunity.’
He made the comments while speaking at a Leadership Jersey event at the Pomme d’Or hotel alongside local environmentalist and photographer Matt Porteous.
Mr Clover told those gathered that 2022 had seen some important commitments made to marine environments, including setting the 30×30 target, which calls for coastal countries to protect 30% of their marine environments by 2030.
‘It is an exciting time,’ he said. ‘There are many examples of leadership in the marine world just now. There is momentum and a growing belief that we can help to tackle the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis together, just by thinking differently and taking some straightforward decisions.’
Speaking shortly after the release of his new book, Rewilding the Seas, he said he had wanted to focus on ‘tendrils of hope’, stories of committed people making incredible changes.
‘It is an account of how things once thought impossible actually happened – for instance the recovery of the Atlantic bluefin tuna, once thought too valuable to be saved from commercial extinction, now cropping up in the English Channel, off Jersey, in the Celtic Sea, off the west of Scotland and even off Norway,’ he said. ‘That was the result of rational management decisions by Atlantic nations we campaigned for with the film of my book, The End of the Line, back in 2010.’
But he added that destructive practices continued to threaten the seas as well.
‘I do not want to exaggerate the good things going on in the ocean. Climate change has placed the coral reefs in dire peril, we still don’t take scientific advice on setting quotas for 65 % of the fish in UK and EU waters, and a tide of plastic is still reaching the oceans, mostly from the world’s ten largest rivers,’ he said.
‘But on the other hand, protection of the ocean has gone from 0.6 % when we made The End of the Line to nearly 8%.’
Leadership in Jersey must mean more than just appreciating the beautiful marine environment, he suggested.
‘As I see it, Jersey has an opportunity to do all those things that we now know we need to do everywhere and it has the opportunity to do them more rapidly and in a more joined-up way than we have so far seen in UK or French waters,’ he said.
‘It is called a marine park. There are maps of where it would be. It would run to around 800 square kilometres roughly on the 20-metre depth contour or around 30% of Jersey’s waters. It would redefine the Island as a green tourist destination and exemplar of good practice rather than as some people now see it, a tax haven.’
And he challenged the next States Assembly to be bold for the sake of the seas.
‘I am tempted to say that if you are going to do it, get on with it, partly because it will seem less significant the longer you dither and principally because you need to start banking the benefits of recovery that marine protection has been shown to bring,’ he said.