New measures have been set out by the Government to boost nature recovery on land and at sea.
The new plans – announced one year on from the launch of the Environmental Improvement Plan – will see a permanent closure of the sandeel fisheries in English waters of the North Sea from April, further targeted restrictions on damaging bottom trawling and a new framework for national parks and protected areas to help them better deliver for nature.
Sandeels are a vital food source for some of our most vulnerable seabirds and marine mammals, such as the iconic puffin and harbour porpoise, and commercially important fish species such as haddock and whiting. This closure will bolster the resilience of these species and make space for nature to recover across our marine habitats.
Important pink sea fans, fragile sponges, anemones will also be further boosted with a targeted ban announced on bottom trawling in an additional 13 Marine Protected Areas.
To bring us closer to achieving the global goal to protect 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030, a new framework for National Parks and National Landscapes to help them better deliver for nature and access will also be published.
Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said:
“We’ve made a lot of progress since we launched the Environmental Improvement Plan – we’ve planted nearly 5 million trees, improved public access to our beautiful countryside and accelerated the adoption of our world-leading farming schemes.
“We are building on this progress with a new package to safeguard our marine ecosystems and bring us one step closer to achieving our 30by30 target, both on land and sea.
“Protecting the environment is fundamental to the prosperity of our country and our new commitments will drive forward our mission to create a cleaner and greener country for all.”
The government has also announced the recipients of £7 million of awards to improve lowland peat soils.
Peatlands are our largest terrestrial carbon store, however, as a result of centuries of drainage for agriculture, just 1% of England’s lowland peatlands remain in a near-natural state, and these drained peatlands account for 88% of all greenhouse gas emissions from England’s peat.
The 34 projects, spread across England’s lowland peat regions such as the Cambridgeshire Fens and Somerset Levels, will use government funding to improve the management of water on lowland peat and enhance understanding of climate change impacts and flood risk. They include projects that will use innovative technologies, such as telemetry, to precisely control water retention levels across the landscape.