John attends the Wildlife Trust's call for a Marine Bill.

John Whittingdale MP is supporting The Wildlife Trusts’ call for a Marine Bill in next month’s Queen’s Speech. Pictured here are John, Andy May (Conservation manager Essex Wildlife Trust) and Michele Kench (Media and Marketing Manager, Essex Wildlife Trust)

He attended their Petition Fish reception in the House of Commons where The Wildlife Trusts – along with representatives from individual Wildlife Trusts - showcased their fish with signed scales. They have gathered more than 150,000 signatures on scales from around the UK over the summer. At the event, The Wildlife Trusts launched their report Marine Reserves: TLC for our seas and sea life2.

John Whittingdale said: ‘I was encouraged to see the strength of public support for a Marine Bill which The Wildlife Trusts have gathered with their Petition Fish. Their report on Marine Reserves highlights the importance of this campaign. We have extraordinarily rich seas around the UK. They are home to more than 44,000 plants and animal species, from intricate corals and seahorses to seals and dolphins.

‘Our seas also play a critical role in regulating our climate. When healthy, they soak up vast amounts of carbon dioxide and release oxygen for us to breath. But this is all threatened by over-exploitation through activities such as overfishing, sand and gravel extraction, waste dumping and so on. We need to look after our seas far better. This is why we need a Marine Bill with effective powers for Marine Reserves - in next month’s Queen’s Speech.

Michael Allen, chairman of The Wildlife Trusts, said: ‘We have been delighted with the 150,000 signatures that Wildlife Trusts from around the UK have gathered for our Petition Fish. It shows there is public support for protecting our marine environment.

‘We have a unique patchwork of marine habitats around our coast with meadows of seagrass, forests of kelp, gardens of colourful sponges and corals, and moonscapes of sand and mud riddled with the burrows of millions of shellfish and worms. Not only does this report demonstrate the urgent need for a Marine Bill which includes effective legal measures to designate Marine Reserves but it also sets out how Marine Reserves might operate.

‘We appreciate the cross party support we have received for a Bill and urge the Government to include the Bill in next month’s Queen’s Speech.’

The Petition Fish are an innovative way of gathering petition signatures. The fish are large, brightly coloured cut-outs, representing four charismatic or endangered UK fish (cod, triggerfish, wrasse and plaice). After the launch of Petition Fish in the House of Commons in June, MPs and individual Wildlife Trusts gathered signatures on scales all around the UK. The fish with signed scales ‘shoaled’ on Westminster for the reception to demonstrate the support for the Marine Bill.

The Wildlife Trusts’ report Marine Reserves: TLC for our seas and sea life is available on the website www.wildlifetrusts.org


 

John Whittingdale meets Geoff Hurst, hero of the 1966 World Cup final, and gets the opportunity to hold the World Cup.