Thank you for your email about the world's oceans. I am sure you will be aware that, as a Minister in HM Government, I am precluded from signing any EDMs, Charters or Pledges due to the principle of collective responsibility. This parliamentary convention applies to ALL Ministers in ANY Government. However, I am in touch with the Minister concerned at Defra about these vital issues.
The world's ocean is currently facing an unprecedented set of challenges, including climate change and over-fishing. It is more important than ever to take action to ensure our seas are healthy, abundant and resilient. I am encouraged that the UK is on course to protect over half of its waters and I join Greenpeace and the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, in calling for the UK and other countries to work together towards a new global commitment for a UN high seas treaty. This would pave the way to protect at least 30 per cent of the world's ocean by 2030.
On top of the 36 per cent of English inshore and offshore waters currently protected within Marine Protected Areas, the Government has consulted on a further 41 Marine Conservation Zones, potentially safeguarding almost 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitats. No new activities deemed damaging will be allowed to take place in these areas and existing harmful activities will be minimised or stopped to allow important habitats to recover. I am also pleased that the UK is on track to protect 4 million square kilometres of ocean across our Overseas Territories by 2020, and are backing an Ascension Island bid to protect 100 per cent of its offshore waters.
The Government is working hard to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean and is leading global efforts to tackle the problem through support of the G7 Oceans Plastics Charter, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's New Plastics Economy and the Commonwealth Blue Charter. In April 2018, the UK launched the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance alongside Vanuatu, encouraging its 25 member countries to take steps to eliminate avoidable single-use plastics.
Finally, the forthcoming International Ocean Strategy will set out plans to work with international partners to secure a sustainable, prosperous and secure ocean future.