I am particularly proud of the Government’s record on marine conservation. There have been 23 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) announced, in addition to the 27 designated in the last Parliament and over 500 other marine protected areas that already existed in the UK. Together these help fulfil the Government’s ambitious pledge to create a ‘Blue Belt’ of protection for our diverse marine wildlife, which now covers over 20 per cent of English waters.
I am pleased to note that the Government has also announced the creation of a new marine protected area around the Pitcairn Islands, and will extend the Blue Belt around the UK’s 14 Overseas Territories where there is local support and environmental need. It was announced most recently that the Atlantic Ocean’s largest marine reserve is being created around Ascension, covering an area almost the size of the United Kingdom. Thanks to these efforts, we are world leaders in marine conservation.
Following the outcome of exit negotiations, the UK will no longer be a member of the EU or the Common Fisheries Policy. However we remain part of Europe and I welcome that both the UK Government and EU leaders have announced that the UK and EU will continue to have a close relationship. We will continue to work with other European countries in this important area.
When designing future environmental and fisheries policy I am certain that Ministers will keep sustainability at the forefront of their efforts, as they consistently have in previous negotiations.