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Wakefield MP Mary Creagh launches Sustainable Seas inquiry

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh.
Wakefield MP Mary Creagh.

A Yorkshire MP is calling for a possible change in the law to tackle shipping emissions as the select committee she leads today launches a new inquiry into the “unprecedented strain” on seas – which she described as the “last great unregulated space”.

The Environmental Audit Committee will examine how the ocean can be protected from climate change, acidification, overfishing and pollution, and how the Government can create a sustainable so-called “blue economy”.

Its chairwoman, Mary Creagh, Wakefield’s Labour MP, also hopes that “struggling coastal communities” can be brought “closer to wildlife” and reap the rewards,

Ms Creagh said: “The seas are under unprecedented strain that they’ve not experienced at any time in human history.”

She said more needed to be done to tackle the shipping emissions of huge water vehicles such cruise liners.

Most people would be “horrified” about the emission levels of cruise ships which “sell people the dream,” she said.

And she added: “The sea is the last great unregulated space. There is no global company regulating the sea, effectively.”

The former Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs also said that a change in the law would need to be considered.

Stressing the importance tackling sea pollution, she said: “I think it’s the last frontier, really, in terms of protecting the planet.”

The Sustainable Seas inquiry comes ahead of the United Nations hosting an Intergovernmental Conference on conserving marine biodiversity under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in September this year.

The UK has commitments under the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development to promote the health of the ocean. With its 14 overseas territories, the UK is responsible for ocean nearly 30 times the size of the country itself.

It has signed up to the Aichi Biodiversity Targets to ensure 10 per cent of the ocean is conserved and protected by 2020 – but only three per cent is protected at the moment, according to the committee.

Calling for submissions to help the inquiry, the committee highlighted how the value to the UK of marine biodiversity has been estimated to be in the trillions of pounds.

In an effort to cut the amount of waste which ends up in rivers and oceans, it was recently announced by the Government that a consultation on banning the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England will launch later this year.

And in January, Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to eliminate “all avoidable plastic waste” with a 25-year plan.

Ms Creagh, who has represented Wakefield since 2005, said: “We have only one ocean, and we all have a duty to care for it.

“The ocean plays a critical role in the daily lives of billions of people who live by it and whose livelihoods depend on it.”