The UK seas are rich in marine life and natural resources, which are the basis for a considerable level of economic activity. In 2002, the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations set out a vision of clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. The first UK-wide assessment of progress towards that vision, Charting Progress, showed in 2005 that the UK seas were productive and supported a wide range of ecosystems, but it also revealed that human activities were adversely affecting marine life.
This second report on the state of the UK seas, Charting Progress 2, provides a considerably improved assessment of the productivity of our seas, and the extent to which human uses and natural pressures are affecting their quality – addressing the specific species, habitats and economic issues of the eight UK marine regions. It helps show whether current environmental protection measures are working, and aims to provide policy makers, planners and the public with a clear evaluation of our progress towards the vision.
The findings are based on a wide-ranging and robust evidence base compiled by UK government agencies, the research community (including marine institutes and universities), non-governmental organisations and industry. The assessment highlights where we are making improvements; where environmental problems remain or deterioration has occurred; issues for which the evidence is lacking; the robustness of the assessment tools; and important gaps in our knowledge together with how these might be addressed.
Changes in the state of the seas take place over relatively long timescales, so we have found few such changes in the five years since Charting Progress. However, there have been some significant improvements. We have sought to set these changes in the context of long-term trends where possible. We have also considerably improved our methodology for the assessment. Unlike Charting Progress, this report also provides a specific assessment of the productive use of our seas, as well as a chapter focused specifically on the impacts of climate change.
Although some uncertainties remain, Charting Progress 2 provides a much broader, more authoritative and more transparent assessment of the state of the UK seas, which will help efforts to safeguard marine ecosystems for generations to come and in doing so ensure their long-term sustainable use.
Acknowledgement: This article was identified by the Crown Estate Wave and Tidal Knowledge Network.