C O N S E R V A T I O N
Can Labour save as much as it dumps?
A campaign to set up more Marine Nature Reserves in the UK, and to improve the law surrounding the protection of the UK's most important and fascinating marine habitats, is gathering pace.
Many divers are backing the efforts being made by the Marine Conservation Society, the Worldwide Fund for Nature, the Wildlife Trusts and others.
The Labour Government's Minister for Environmental Protection, Michael Meacher, has already signalled his willingness to ensure that the UK gets more than its current paltry three Marine Nature Reserves. These are at Lundy in the Bristol Channel, Skomer off the Pembrokeshire coast and Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland.
Perhaps Mr Meacher could also consider this: on the one hand, the UK has only three Marine Nature Reserves, on the other it has well over 100 marine dumpsites at which sewage sludge from the many treatment works around the UK and dredge spoil sucked up from the seabed in historically polluted ports and harbours is dumped under licence from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
Much of this dumping can have a serious detrimental effect some distance from the dumpsites, not only on visibility but also on the marine life divers wish to see.
Indeed, some dumpsites are loosely termed "dispersive", which means it is hoped that the dumped material will disperse outside the dumpsite itself.
Smothering of the seabed from this dumping can wipe out marine life as effectively as the beam trawlers that many divers love to hate.
Perhaps it is time for some degree of equity with the dumpers? While the Government is looking at the law, can divers request at least one Marine Nature Reserve for every licensed dumpsite? It would seem only fair.
Appeared in DIVER - April 1998