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Oceans cover about 70% of the earth and support an incredible variety of life. However, according to the UN, as much as 40 per cent of the world oceans are heavily affected by human activities, including pollution, depleted fisheries, and loss of coastal habitats. The oceans include a vast variety of habitats, and the broad spectrum of human activities in the oceans affect different species and ecosystems to different extents.

UK seas extend to some 867 400 km, more than three and a half times the UK land area, and host a wide variety of marine habitats and species. There are thought to be more than 330 fish species inhabiting the shelf seas around the British Isles, 28 species of dolphins and whales, and 38 species of seabirds which use British waters.  

Human activities in the both coastal and open waters have increased, leading to physical and biological pressures on the marine environment, including the impacts of fishing, pollution and climate change. The UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform states:

Oceans, seas and marine resources are increasingly threatened, degraded or destroyed by human activities, reducing their ability to provide crucial ecosystem services. Important classes of threats are, among others, climate change, marine pollution, unsustainable extraction of marine resources and physical alterations and destruction of marine and coastal habitats and landscapes. The deterioration of coastal and marine ecosystems and habitats is negatively affecting human well-being worldwide.

This debate pack provides an introduction to a number of topics relating to the degradation of the marine environment, including:

  • UN Sustainable Development Goal 14
  • Marine Conservation
  • Fish and shellfish farming (known as aquaculture)
  • Fisheries
  • Climate Change
  • Marine pollution

Documents to download

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