The UK has 15 National Parks. All of these are terrestrial and celebrate our moors, mountains, and broads. Unlike other countries like Malaysia, Greece, India, Thailand, and Costa Rica, amongst others, as of spring 2019 the UK does not have any National Marine Parks. This is a missed opportunity as the UK’s marine waters are amazingly biodiverse and important to our heritage and wellbeing.
The good news is there is a plan to right this wrong and create the UK’s first National Marine Park right here in Plymouth, Britain’s Ocean City, and the best place in the country to have a National Marine Park (admittedly, I may be a little biased).
My research group at the University of Plymouth has recently published a paper in Marine Policy exploring how a type of Marine Park, called a ‘City Marine Park’ due to its focus on coastal cities globally, can enhance the many benefits of living by the sea. Firstly, a City Marine Park does not set out to further regulate or conserve the marine environment. Instead, a City Marine Park seeks to recognise an ocean and coastal space for its special importance for city community health, well-being, and heritage. The intention of a City Marine Park is to encourage greater prosperity for the region and get people enjoying the coast and sea, with the hope this engagement will encourage a better understanding, appreciation, and care for the marine environment. A City Marine Park will encourage pride in the local marine environment and the adjacent community, and, hopefully, increase sustainability and well-being for local citizens. In fact, City Marine Parks, as part of a global blue urbanism movement for happier and healthier cities, have the scope to help address multiple Sustainable Development Goals (Fig. 1).
So, back to Plymouth. Plymouth is not a wealthy city. In some of our most socio-economically deprived areas children grow up without ever visiting the seaside, even though it is only a few miles away. A National Marine Park can provide the infrastructure to enable local schools to bring their students to the sea. Adding an educational element to the Plymouth seafront can encourage local citizens to learn about our marine waters and hopefully foster a sense of pride in our marine environment (Fig. 2).
As the lyrics say:
Well in England’s South West is the county that’s best,
full of rolling green hills and a coast that’s been blessed,
and inside of the Sound lie the three Plymouth towns,
where everyone’s known as a Janner.
Janners, Janners, down in Plymouth we’re all known as Janners.
Indeed, we are blessed with an amazing coastline here in Plymouth. I love Plymouth and I’m proud to be (an honorary) Janner. I hope that creating the country’s first National Marine Park right here in Plymouth will highlight the amazing marine environment of Britain’s Ocean City.
Abigail, Plankton and Policy
Read more: Pittman, S.J., Rodwell, L.D., Shellock, R.J., Williams, M., Attrill, M.J., Bedford, J., Curry, K., Fletcher, S., Gall, S.C., Lowther, J., McQuatters-Gollop, A., Moseley, K.L. and Rees, S.E., (2019). Marine parks for coastal cities: A concept for enhanced community well-being, prosperity and sustainable city living. Marine Policy. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.02.012