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South Tyneside Makes Ocean Recovery Declaration

South Tyneside Council has become the first local authority in the north of England to declare an urgent need for ocean recovery.

The 'Motion for the Ocean', supported at a recent Borough Council meeting, recognises the importance of the ocean in the fight against climate change and the role that local and national government can play to help protect it.

The declaration commits the Council to consider ocean recovery in its decision and policy making, to help improve the way marine environments are used and managed, to rally support for local people to act as marine citizens and to lobby Central Government for change at national level.

Councillor Ernest Gibson is Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety at South Tyneside Council and Chairman of the Local Government Association's (LGA) Coastal Special Interest Group (SIG).

He said: "Coastal communities, such as South Tyneside, are disproportionately impacted by climate change compared to inland communities due to rising water temperatures and sea levels, changes in ocean chemistry and more frequent extreme weather impacts.

"These factors can affect local seafood and tourism industries while accelerating coastal erosion and the risk to infrastructure and properties.

"We have been leading the way for marine conservation regionally though projects such as SeaScapes and Stronger Shores, and nationally in our role as lead authority of the LGA Coastal SIG.

"It is natural that we would be one of the first local authorities in England, and the first in the region, to declare an urgent need for ocean recovery, to pledge to do all we can as a local authority to help protect our marine environment and recognise the full range of benefits a healthy ocean can bring."

The 'Motion for the Ocean' commits South Tyneside Council to consider the ocean when making decisions, particularly around budgets, planning, skills and regeneration, as well as ensuring that the economic opportunities from the sea, such as fishing, marine technology, renewable energy and aquaculture, are developed in a sustainable way.

Through the declaration, the Council also pledges to invest in the ocean as part of its climate change plans, strive to ensure that all pupils have a first-hand experience of the ocean before leaving primary school and support and promote equitable access to the ocean for all.

Councillor Gibson said: "The world ocean is in crisis due to decades of irresponsible marine exploitation and pollution together with the devastating impact of climate change on marine ecosystems. An unhealthy ocean is detrimental to our local economies, the health, wellbeing and prosperity of coastal communities and to our climate as it means that the sea can't store as much carbon as it should.

"The ocean is an important part of our local heritage, with its future protection a key factor in delivering local prosperity, boosting the Borough's economy, providing sustainable jobs and ensuring a clean, safe coastal environment which better connects people and the sea.

"Unfortunately, there are many people who do not have the opportunity, or the means, to access and enjoy the ocean. First-hand experience of the ocean is not only important for health and wellbeing but is essential if people are to be motivated to play their part in helping to protect and care for it - whether that is through recycling more and responsibly disposing of litter to volunteering in ocean conservation."

Other actions include calls for national policy change, lobbying Central Government to appoint a dedicated Minister for Coastal Communities and ensuring communities have a meaningful say in the development of marine policy. It also urges Government to produce a national Ocean Recovery Strategy, which would include strengthening legislation to help address issues such as single use plastics and microfibres polluting oceans.

The Motion supports South Tyneside Council's ongoing efforts to tackle climate change and environmental issues. In 2019, the Council declared a climate emergency, making a commitment to become carbon neutral by 2030 and to enhance the natural environment.

The Borough is the third council in the UK, after Plymouth and Falmouth, to pass the Motion for the Ocean - a model motion of pledges which have been developed by three marine and coastal experts to encourage local authorities to declare an urgent need for ocean recovery.

One of those experts is Emily Cunningham, lead officer for the LGA Coastal Special Interest Group, of which South Tyneside Council is the lead authority.

She said: "Coastal local authorities are working hard to bring about a brighter future for the communities they serve, yet too often they overlook the opportunities and benefits that a healthy ocean could provide.

"I am proud to have supported the councillors at South Tyneside in adapting the model motion to their local circumstances and congratulate them on this declaration. I look forward to seeing the difference this will make to the coastal communities and stunning natural environment of South Tyneside."

 

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