Our seas offer millions of people a chance to enjoy the natural environment provide healthy, secure food supplies and other resources and support employment in coastal communities. Healthy, productive, sustainable marine ecosystems contain rich and varied wildlife, plants and geological features. They provide a wide range of ecosystem services, including helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.
We subject our seas to competing demands, as well as pollution and other damage. They help to regulate our climate, but their ecosystems are threatened by warming and acidification. Some fish stocks are not fished at sustainable levels and some habitats and species are threatened by the pressures on our seas.
Marine issues are of global concern. The seas offer opportunities to take action on climate change through adaption and mitigation and the UK is taking a lead internationally on issues such as ocean acidification. We are also taking a lead to protect whales and prevent illegal fishing.
Our seas are a common public resource so the government aims to ensure they are sustainably managed for a range of social, environmental and economic benefits. The UK has national, EU and international marine conservation commitments. Defra designates marine protected areas, which play a key part in achieving biodiversity benefits. We are also tackling the issues of how best to strike a balance between conservation and development of marine resources. Supplies of fish as a healthy food source need to be secured, without destroying fish stocks and damaging the marine environment.