Now that the UK has left the EU, the UK Government has powers to implement evidenced based marine management that will help ensure our seas are managed sustainably, protecting both the long-term future of the fishing industry and our precious wildlife and habitats.
Also, some of the UK’s most polluting industries will benefit from £40 million funding to help them cut their carbon emissions, while reducing their energy bills, the government announced.
Safeguarding the UK seas
Marine Protected Areas are designated areas of the ocean which include habitats and species essential for healthy, functioning marine eco-systems. The purpose of a Marine Protected Area is to protect and enhance rare, threatened and important habitats and species from damage caused by activities that take place within it.
The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is consulting on byelaws being proposed under new powers introduced under the Fisheries Act, the UK’s first major domestic fisheries legislation in nearly 40 years. These byelaws aim to prohibit fishing activities in Marine Protected Areas where there is evidence that they harm wildlife or damage habitats. The proposed byelaws seek to prohibit the use of bottom towed fishing gear in all four sites and additional restrictions for static gears over sensitive features in two of the sites.
The consultation runs from 1 February 2021 to 28 March 2021 and follows a call for evidence, which closed in December 2020, where the MMO sought additional evidence and views on the draft assessments and management options for the four offshore Marine Protected Areas.
These first four Marine Protected Areas were chosen as a priority to help protect their vibrant and productive undersea environments, and include the Dogger Bank Special Area of Conservation, which has the largest shallow sandbank in British waters and supports commercial fish species such cod and plaice, as well as sand eels that provide an important food source for kittiwakes, puffins and porpoises.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Now that we have left the Common Fisheries Policy, we are able to deliver on our commitment to achieve a healthy, thriving and sustainable marine environment. The UK has already established an impressive ‘Blue Belt’ covering 38% of our waters and our Fisheries Act has provided us with additional powers to go further to protect our seas around England. This proposal to introduce byelaws to safeguard four of our precious offshore Marine Protected Areas shows how we are putting these powers into action.”
Action is already being taken to tackle unsustainable activities within England’s seas, with management measures introduced in many inshore sites through byelaws introduced by both MMO and the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities.
Tom McCormack, Chief Executive Officer of MMO, said: “This consultation is a big step forward in agreeing measures that will help protect and revive important marine habitats, vital to the unique and vibrant marine life that live within them. We are ambitious for England’s seas and want to hear as many views as possible in order to create benefits for people and the economy, while protecting our precious marine environment for future generations.”
£40 million to help polluting businesses clean up
Businesses in energy-intensive sectors, including pharmaceuticals, steel, paper and food and drink, will be able to apply for grants worth up to £14 million through the government’s Industrial Energy Transformation Fund – totalling £289 million in funding up until 2024.
In this second competition window, the minimum grant has been lowered to £100,000 for deployment projects, offering more flexibility for small businesses to receive funding so they can speed up getting their ideas to market.
With potential projects taking place across the East and West Midlands, North East, North West, and Yorkshire and the Humber as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, the government grants will enable businesses to use new technology to improve the efficiency of industrial processes and reduce energy demand.
They will drive them towards a cleaner, more sustainable future as part of our green industrial revolution by 2030 and mission to eliminate our contribution to climate change by 2050.
This includes factories installing electric motors and heat pumps to replace their natural gas-fired boilers and steam turbines, manufacturers using heat recovery technology to recycle waste heat and generate renewable electricity, and industries such as the food and drink sector carrying out studies to replace natural gas with hydrogen as their primary fuel.
Doing so will create and support thousands of British jobs, cut carbon emissions and lead to cleaner air for the people of the UK.
Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “We can only achieve our ambitious plans to tackle climate change if everyone plays their part, including businesses large and small. That’s why our £40 million investment will not only help some of the highest polluting industries like steel, paper and pharmaceuticals build back greener by finding innovative ways to reduce their carbon emissions but will also create more opportunities for growth and jobs by levelling up and making industry fit for the future.”
The fund supports the UK government’s mission to build back greener and level up the country’s industrial heartlands by allowing them to lay the path for economic growth.
The government’s Industrial Energy Transformation Fund is worth £289 million with funding available across England, Wales and Northern Ireland up until 2024. The fund supports heavy industry as the UK transitions to a low-carbon economy.
Today’s announcement follows an initial launch in June 2020 which saw 39 applications approved for funding in the first window, totalling £31 million.
It is calculated that as a result of these projects carbon emissions will be reduced by 2.6 million tonnes over their lifespan, which is equivalent to taking 38,000 fossil-fuelled cars off the road over a 30 year period.