Restoring the UK’s seas could boost economy by £50bn by 2050

a view from underwater shows plastic bags and other debris floating in the sea

The UK’s economy could benefit from a £50 billion boost if a holistic approach to sea restoration is adopted

That’s according to new research by Sky Ocean Rescue and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). They estimate a total of 100,000 new jobs could be created by protecting and restoring natural carbon sinks such as kelp forests and seagrass meadows.

In 2019, 11 out of 15 UK sea zones failed to meet Government standards on good environmental health. The WWF and Sky Ocean Rescue report warns that just 1% of the UK waters are fully protected and calls on UK Governments to commit to a 10-year ocean recovery plan as soon as possible.

Plastic pollution in the sea and on a beach
Researchers at the University of Manchester highest recorded levels of microplastic pollution in the world in a river in the north-west of England 

Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF, said: “We must halt and reverse decades of neglect to fully protect more of our ocean – the beating blue heart of our planet.

Environment minister, Rebecca Pow, said: “The UK Government is committed to leading efforts to protect our ocean and marine life at home and internationally.

A Greenpeace boat demonstrates against the Margiris supertrawler
Margiris supertrawler in UK waters | Image: Greenpeace

“We have already established a ‘Blue Belt’ covering over 38% of our waters and are leading calls for at least 30% of the global ocean to be protected by 2030. However there is still a great deal to be done to restore our ocean to its natural state,” she added.

The Value of Restored UK Seas report

According to the study by Sky Ocean Rescue and the World Wildlife Fund, restoring healthy coastal ecosystems such as seagrass and salt marshes can capture a third of the UK’s 2018 carbon emissions, worth £10.1 billion.

The study estimates that 85% of saltmarshes and 95% of oyster reefs have already been lost – saltmarshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by saltwater brought in by the tides.

A seagrass meadow
Seagrass meadow | Image: NOAA Photo Library

Seagrass meadows, which are considered to be capable of capturing and storing carbon more quickly than rainforests can, have also suffered a 90% decline according to the findings of the report.

Bringing our oceans back to life is crucial for our climate and biodiversity targets, but it’s also a sound economic investment

Sky Ocean Rescue and the World Wildlife Fund

The report also predicts a 15% decline of the fish stock in the Celtic seas and a 35% drop in the North Sea by 2050 as a result of over-fishing and poor regulation of protected areas.

Better management of marine protected areas can deliver up to £10.5 billion of recreational and other benefits, including scuba diving, sea angling and wildlife watching.


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