Chapter 1: Aim of the Assessment

Charting Progress

The vision of achieving clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas was set out in the first marine stewardship report – Safeguarding our Seas – published in 2002. As an initial step towards this vision, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Devolved Administrations published Charting Progress in 2005, which was the first integrated assessment of the state of the UK seas. In overview, the report concluded:

The general picture that emerges from the evidence is that the UK seas are productive and support a wide range of fish, mammals, seabirds and other marine life. The open seas are generally not affected by pollution and the levels of monitored contaminants have decreased significantly. The main contamination problems which are identified are in part due to the legacy of the past and are generally observed at higher levels in industrialised estuaries or areas local to the activity.

However, human activity has already resulted in adverse changes to marine life and continues to do so. For example, widespread commercial fishing practices threaten many fish stocks by over-exploitation and damage sea floor areas. There is also evidence that the marine ecosystem is being altered by climate change: for example sea temperatures are rising and the distribution of plankton species is changing. These changes pose a real threat to the balance and integrity of the marine ecosystem.

Charting Progress made a number of recommendations for action to improve our understanding of the marine environment and the way we manage and collect information about it.

Yacht with basking shark

© Keith Hiscock, JNCC