UK councils are being urged to sign a “motion for the ocean” – pledging to engage with citizens to promote ocean recovery.
Plymouth City Council, Falmouth Town Council and South Tyneside Council have already passed ocean recovery motions.
The team behind the project have created a model motion for councils to adapt and adopt, in the hope of creating a movement similar to that seen with climate emergency declarations.
The motion was written by Dr Pamela Buchan, a University of Exeter researcher and Plymouth City Councillor; Emily Cunningham, Lead Officer of the Local Government Association (LGA) Coastal Special Interest Group; and Nicola Bridge, Head of Ocean Advocacy and Engagement at the Ocean Conservation Trust.
“The need for ocean recovery to mitigate some of the worst impacts of the climate emergency and support the wellbeing and prosperity of coastal communities is urgent,” said Dr Buchan, who proposed the motion that was adopted by the city of Plymouth.
“For too long, the ocean has been side-lined in climate debates and taken for granted by our island nation, but people and politicians are beginning to understand that we can’t mitigate the impacts of climate change without addressing how we use and manage our coastal and ocean environments.
“My research as a marine social scientist shows that connecting emotionally with the sea and feeling dependent upon it for your wellbeing are really important factors in motivating people to take marine environmental action.
“This motion recognises that we need to connect people to the ocean in sustainable ways.”
Dr Buchan’s ESRC-funded PhD research focussed on “marine citizenship” – people feeling responsible for the marine environment and taking action to transform the relationship people have with the ocean.
She hopes UK people will feel “empowered to act as marine citizens” and ask their local councillors to support an ocean recovery declaration.
Emily Cunningham said: “Coastal local authorities are working hard to bring about a brighter future for the communities we serve, yet too often we overlook the opportunities and benefits that a healthy ocean could provide.
“The LGA Coastal Special Interest Group recognises that our ocean is in a state of emergency and that local government has a crucial role to play in recovering it to health.
“Local authorities cannot solve the ocean crisis alone, but they can and must play their part.
“We are ready to support all councils in stepping up to take ocean action now. There’s no time to waste.”
Nicola Bridge added: “All of our work at the Ocean Conservation Trust is centred around people.
“Our Think Ocean Challenge is designed specifically to bring the ocean to the forefront of people’s minds and help them to think about the ocean in their everyday lives.
“For too long, the ocean has been missing from discussions at local and national government levels, meaning that decisions are made that do not reflect the importance of a healthy ocean.
“At policy level, ocean health is not recognised as essential for human health.
“We are pleased to have been part of the creation of this model ‘ocean recovery motion’ and hope to see councils across the UK adopting it and taking steps towards better recognition of the importance of ocean health.”
English local authorities have a range of coastal and marine responsibilities within their powers, including flood and coastal erosion risk management and, through their local Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, the management of inshore fisheries and marine protected areas.
Additionally, they can share in the collective responsibility to improve the health of our shared ocean through a wide range of local strategies and actions, including educational approaches; water, waste and land management; and the full remit of climate emergency actions many have already committed to.
The new motion embraces the “source-to-sea” approach, highlighting the direct connection that we all have to the sea through rivers and drainage, and the important impact of land-based carbon emissions on ocean health. This makes the motion relevant to all councils, even those inland.
Main photo: Waves in Northumberland. Credit Dr Pamela Buchan.
More information about Think Ocean Challenge.