A HISTORIC agreement by United Nations member states to safeguard large swathes of the world’s oceans has reignited calls for a marine park in Jersey’s waters.
The High Seas Treaty was recently agreed by nearly 200 nations and provides a legal framework to establish marine protected areas across two-thirds of the space covered by oceans outside national boundaries.
The treaty, which is the result of almost two decades of UN-facilitated talks, will help to protect wildlife from overfishing and pollution.
Freddie Watson, Jersey project manager for the Blue Marine Foundation – which champions ocean conservation around the world – said the agreement added ‘momentum’ to ongoing efforts to expand a network of protected areas in the Island’s waters.
He said these areas, once designated, could ‘form the basis of a marine park’.
And Deputy Lyndon Farnham, who last year pushed for the creation a marine park with an amendment to the Bridging Island Plan – a proposal that was ultimately rejected by the previous States Assembly – said the treaty had revived calls for such a provision in local waters.
Plans lodged by then-Senator Farnham to protect around 900sq-km from bottom trawling and dredging were supported by the majority of respondents to a poll commissioned by the BMF and the National Trust for Jersey, but States Members rejected that proposal by 28 votes to 14 during last year’s Bridging Island Plan debate.
Mr Watson said: ‘The High Seas Treaty makes it possible to create marine-protected areas in areas beyond national jurisdiction, ie the high seas, which amount to nearly half of the planet’s surface. The treaty is essential if the world is to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030, as nearly the whole world agreed to do in Montreal – in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework – last December.
‘While the treaty explicitly covers the high seas, it does add momentum to efforts within domestic waters to deliver marine-protected areas – the entire world is now moving in this direction and Jersey would want to stay at the forefront.’
He noted that Jersey was ‘already on course’ to create protected areas over the next few years through a marine spatial plan being developed by the Government of Jersey.
‘The network of marine protected areas being developed in the marine spatial plan – a process which we are fully supportive of – could well form the basis of a marine park, but only after the MPAs have been designated,’ he said.
Deputy Farnham added: ‘Jersey needs to follow the example that has been set by the agreement of the High Seas Treaty, to show that the Island is serious about providing legitimate protections for its local sea habitats and maintaining a sustainable fishing environment.’
He continued: ‘We need to commit to this as soon as possible if Jersey does not want to fall behind the rest of the world. We missed an opportunity during last year’s debate but the creation of an marine national park is still a realistic possibility – if the political will to do so is there.’