The ocean is currently facing unprecedented challenges, including climate change and over-fishing. It is more important than ever to take action to ensure our seas are healthy, abundant, productive and resilient.

The UK is leading the way on ocean protection and we are on course to protecting over half of our waters. The UK now has 357 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) of different types, spanning 220,000 square km, and no activities deemed damaging to designated features will be allowed to take place in these areas. An external review has also been launched into whether and how Highly Protected Marine Areas, the strongest form of marine protection, could be introduced in English seas, potentially expanding and strengthening the UK’s Blue Belt to create richer habitats for marine life.

The UK’s Blue Belt Programme is on track to protect over 4 million square kilometres of ocean around the Overseas Territories before the end of the year. The Government is working closely with Commonwealth partners through the Commonwealth Marine Economies Programme to support sustainable development of their marine economies, and the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance to reduce marine plastic pollution. Furthermore, the UK will establish a £500m Blue Planet Fund to help eligible countries protect their marine resources from climate change, plastic pollution, overfishing and habitat loss.

The UK is working hard to deliver an international agreement that at least 30 per cent of the world’s ocean will be protected within MPAs by 2030.  As a key part of delivering that target, the UK is committed to concluding negotiations on a new legally binding UN agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. Ministers are pressing for negotiations to conclude this year.