Ocean Conservation Trust

Making Waves in Westminster

Posted: 17th April, 2024
  • Ocean Conservationists presented to MPs and Peers about marine wildlife conservation.
  • Experts from the Ocean Conservation Trust and Zoological Society of London spoke about their ground-breaking projects restoring seagrass in the UK and conserving coral reefs in the Indian Ocean.
  • The National Oceanography Centre presented their cutting-edge ocean science and discussed their work in open ocean conservation to a packed room of parliamentarians and NGOs.

Ocean scientists made waves in Westminster this week as they presented their work to a room of MPs and members of the House of Lords. On Tuesday [16 April], MPs and Peers were brought together by Sarah Champion MP and Sally-Ann Hart MP in a cross-party show of support for ocean conservation. Sarah and Sally-Ann chair the All-Party Groups for Zoos and Aquariums and the Ocean respectively.

Ocean wildlife face immense challenges:

  • According to the IUCN coral reefs are among the most threatened ecosystems on Earth, largely due to climate change and local pressures.
  • Since the 1930’s, up to 90% of seagrass beds have been lost, largely through physical disturbance, pollution, and disease. Seagrass is an essential habitat for species including seahorses and are a vital carbon sink.
  • Scientists from ZSL have shown climate change is impacting strandings of whales and dolphins on beaches in the UK.

But the oceans are also sites of incredible conservation work:

  • The Ocean Conservation Trust is cultivating seagrass within purpose built labs at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, and in Polytunnels in nearby Brixham. This new seagrass is then planted in suitable habitats in and around Plymouth. This method has currently restored 8 hectares of seagrass meadow and the learnings from are helping protect nearly 200 hectares of this much needed ecosystem.
  • ZSL scientists helped protect corals through their research on resilience and recovery of corals from bleaching events in the Chagos Archipelago and is working with communities in the Philippines to protect reefs there from issues such as overfishing
  • BIAZA aquariums are helping off-shore wind farms create positive impacts for local ocean wildlife, surveying sea horses on the UK’s south coast and native sharks in Wales.
  • Scientists at the National Oceanography Centre undertake research to map, survey and monitor offshore Marine Protected Areas around the UK such as the Darwin Mounds MPA and the Canyons Marine Conservation Zone, both of which feature cold water coral gardens.
  • Earlier this year the UK Government expanded marine protections by more than 166,000 square kilometres around the South Georgia Islands in the South Atlantic.

Mark Parry of the Ocean Conservation Trust presented on the organisation’s ‘Blue Meadows' seagrass protection and restoration project, Rachel Jones from the Zoological Society of London spoke about their incredible work with Chagos corals and Dr Tammy Horton from the National Oceanography Centre presented on their leading scientific research and work in open ocean conservation.

They joined a chorus of NGOs encouraging parliamentarians to hold a debate for World Ocean Day in June, where they can shine a light on the obstacles for marine conservation.

Sally-Ann Hart MP commented: “I am delighted the APPG for the Oceans and the APPG for Zoos and Aquariums could come together at this timely point. It is clear that here in the UK we are not short of passionate expert advocates for the ocean and I am sure government will draw upon that expertise. Ocean conservation is an important issue for biodiversity, coastal communities and for the future of the ocean, and it is integral we all come together to ensure it can be protected.”

Sarah Champion MP said: “The state of ocean ecosystems isn’t just a matter of supporting the animals that call the ocean their home, but it is also about supporting the millions of people in coastal communities all across the world that rely on the ocean for their livelihoods.”

Dr Tammy Horton from the National Oceanography Centre said: “We need ocean advocates at every level of Government, more than ever. It was a pleasure to present alongside experts from the Ocean Conservation Trust and the Zoological Society of London, I hope the MPs and Lords heard clearly the need to take action to support our critical marine environment.”

The event was organised by the APPG for the Ocean and Zoos and Aquariums APPG, and supported by the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the National Oceanography Centre, as part of the respective organisations ongoing work to support nature conservation through advocacy.


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