View of sea defences with setting sun, Wallasea Island RSPB reserve, Essex, England

Marine Campaign - Archive of activities

We campaigned for nearly a decade to get new legislation to better protect the marine environment and wildlife. Here are some of the highlights from the journey.

2001

Marine Charter (December)

As part of Wildlife and Countryside Link, we published a Marine Charter which set out our ideas for the full range of reforms needed to marine laws and policies in order to manage the UK's marine environment more sustainably.

Marine Wildlife Conservation Bill (2001-2002)

In 2001, John Randall MP won the House of Commons' Private Member's Bill (PMB) ballot. He brought forward a Marine Wildlife Conservation Bill to create a new designation to protect nationally important marine sites, species and features in the territorial waters (ie the area of the sea which extends out to 12 nautical miles, approximately 22 km, from the coastline) of England and Wales. 

This PMB was necessary because protection of marine wildlife had been neglected for too long. While there are 6,500 or so Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in the UK, only 5 per cent are estuarine and virtually none extend below low water, and under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, only three tiny Marine Nature Reserves (MNRs) were designated in nearly 30 years, compared to more than 380 National Nature Reserves (NNRs) on land.

Despite receiving cross-party support in the House of Commons, the PMB failed to become law as it ran out of time in the House of Lords due to the tabling of a significant number of amendments by just a handful of Peers.

There is no doubt that the enormous contribution made by our members and supporters in writing to their MPs made a significant difference in the PMB progressing as far as it did.

2004

World Oceans Day - Early Day Motion

As part of the Wildlife & Countryside Link coalition, we decided it was time to raise political awareness about the need for marine legislation.

On World Oceans Day (8 June 2004), Link had a photo shoot with MPs signing an Early Day Motion (EDM), 'A future for our seas', calling for the introduction of comprehensive legislation to protect and manage the marine environment. 

To support the event, Link also published an information leaflet, The last living wilderness - a future for our seas, calling for comprehensive legislation to achieve better protection for marine wildlife and effective management of our seas.

2005

Lobby of Parliament (9 March)

In the Spring of 2005, the environmental organisations held a pre-election lobby of Parliament to show MPs and Ministers how important the protection of marine wildlife is to the public. 300 lobbyists came from all over the UK to meet and lobby their MPs and ask them to support calls for the introduction of new marine legislation. This is a very powerful action, making the link for MPs between voters concerns and the need for better conservation.

The result of the lobby was a commitment to a Marine Act in the 2005 election manifestos from each of the 3 main political Parties.

Labour's pledge was to a 'Marine Bill that delivered better management of human activities at sea through marine planning, as well as better protection for marine wildlife'.

World Oceans Day – Marine legislation pledge hand-in

To build on the Government's manifesto commitment, we, and the other environmental charities, highlighted the strength of public support for marine environmental legislation by handing in nearly 170,000 pledges to 10 Downing Street on World Ocean Day (8 June), calling for the introduction of a Marine Bill.

Marine lobby

2007

Parliamentary reception

However, by early 2007 we were getting worried, government had now consulted twice on what a Marine Bill might contain but there was still no Bill. We needed to ramp up our campaign efforts.

Wildlife & Countryside Link held a Parliamentary reception attended by the then Minister Ben Bradshaw – to highlight the continued cross-party support in political circles.

Penny the Puffin says 'Give us a (Marine) Bill now!' (June)

To show the strength of support for marine legislation across the political parties, we took Penny, our inflatable puffin to Westminster for a photo-shoot with MPs - getting them to ask for a Marine Bill now.

Marine Bill pledge hand-ins (UK and Scotland)

Again we asked the public to sign pledges to show how much marine wildlife means to them and the need for legislation to protect the marine environment. Our then Vice-President, Kate Humble was one of the signatories.

As we had already had a promise from government for a Draft Marine Bill that had not materialised, we wanted the real thing this time; so we were calling for a full Marine Bill to be introduced before the end of 2007. In October, youth representatives handed in more than 300,000 pledges to 10 Downing Street, more than 123,000 of which were generated by our members and supporters.

In August, Scottish pledges were handed-in to the Scottish Environment Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead, calling for a Scottish Marine Bill to be introduced to cover Scotland’s inshore waters.

The Queen's Speech - newspaper advert (October)

In addition, we took out a newspaper advert jointly with other environmental organisations, calling on the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown to announce a Marine Bill in that year's Queen's Speech.

While we didn't get a full Marine Bill announced in November, the government did introduce a Draft Marine Bill, which was subjected to scrutiny by a Parliamentary Committee during 2008.

Along with other environmental organisations, we gave evidence to this committee on what changes we thought needed to be made to the Draft Bill to make it stronger and better able to deliver conservation for marine wildlife.

2008

Scottish Marine Bill campaign pledges

In Scotland, our campaigning with other organisations had resulted in more pledges being presented to the Scottish Government, which then committed to and consulted on its ideas for a Scottish Marine Bill. The Scottish Bill was needed to fill the gaps in any UK Bill that result from the devolution of powers to the Scottish Government.

Queen's Speech newspaper advert

At the end of 2008, we knew that we had to keep the pressure on the UK Government to finally introduce a full Marine Bill. Time was running out, elections were on the horizon and there were rumours that the Marine Bill might not be included in the 2008-09 Parliamentary session.

So we placed another newspaper advert, calling on Gordon Brown to deliver the Government's manifesto commitment and to include the Marine Bill in the 2008 Queen's Speech.

The ad did its job – the PM, the Secretary of State and the Marine Minister all made statements within the following week, committing the government to introducing a Bill.

The Marine and Coastal Access Bill was introduced into Parliament on 4 December.

2009

Marine Bill lobby of Parliament (13 May)

As the Marine and Coastal Access Bill passed from the House of Lords into the Commons, we decided that it was vital that MPs were aware that such an important Bill was soon going to be under their scrutiny.

We therefore held a lobby of Parliament where members of a number of environmental organisations rallied in London and met their MPs to tell them about those areas of the Bill that needed to be changed and strengthened if the new legislation was to deliver better protection for the marine environment and wildlife.

The Minister and a couple of MPs came and met members before the rally, and highlighted the importance of the democratic process in delivering good legislation.

Marine Act Celebration Event (2 December)

The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 finally received Royal Assent in November 2009.

Charities celebrated the arrival of this long awaited Marine Act with an event at the London Aquarium. Guest speakers at the event were the Secretary of State for the Environment, Hilary Benn, and RSPB President, Kate Humble.

We also took the opportunity to look forward, now that we have the legislative tools to deliver better protection for marine wildlife to set out Our Vision for the Future of our Seas.