Dredging around the English coast is likely to increase, while pollution and sewage are putting pressure on coastal ecosystems, and increasing numbers of people are at risk of coastal flooding, the Environmental Agency has warned.

Three quarters of seafood waters around England failed to meet ‘aspirational’ standards for environmental protection in 2021, the report of the agency’s chief scientific group found.

Dredging and pollution have come under increasing scrutiny, after a mysterious crab and lobster die off around Teesside on the northeast coast in the fall of 2021. A report released last week found that dredging was unlikely to be the cause of the fatalitiessuggesting that a new, unidentified pathogen could have been the culprit, but the findings have been criticized by some scientists.

The EA report paints a bleak picture of England’s coastal regions, with less than a fifth of UK estuaries considered to be in good ecological status. Only 45% of assessed marine areas met the standard in 2021, according to the report, released Thursday.

More than nine in 10 of the estuaries sampled had nitrogen levels too high in 2019, as did almost half of the coastal waters. Nitrogen pollution comes from agricultural runoff and sewage waterand can cause harmful algae blooms that kill marine life and suffocate seagrass and mudflats.

The report found that there was “widespread damage to coastal defences, property and infrastructure” during the storms, with some 100,000 people at risk of significant coastal flooding.

Sand dunes were being lost to erosion and wetlands were drying up under the influence of the climate crisis, according to the report. About 85% of England’s salt marshes, a major carbon store, have been lost since the 19th century, along with about half of seagrass beds and 95% of the population of native oysters.

Added to this, many people in coastal regions They are going through financial difficulties. Alan Lovell, chairman of the Environment Agency, told the Coastal Futures conference on Thursday morning that coastal cities are among the most deprived in the UK.

Alan Lovell on a visit to the Ipswich tidal barrier in November.
Environment Agency Chairman Alan Lovell on a visit to the Ipswich tidal barrage in November. Photo: Sam Russell/PA

“We need to work together with coastal communities to identify the best possible way to keep them safe and prosperous,” he said. “We need a concerted effort to better protect coastal communities and economies while improving the marine environment.”

More than a third of the UK population lives within 3 km (1.9 miles) of the coast, Lovell noted. He said there has been some progress in combating multiple threats to the coastal environment, including an initiative restore 15% of coastal and estuarine habitats that are considered priority areas by 2043, but much remains to be done.

About 1,200 hectares (2,965 acres) of mudflats and mudflats have been created since 2005, according to the report, and there has been progress in overfishing, with about half of the stocks fished at sustainable levels in 2019 compared to about a tenth. in 1990.

Charles Clover, CEO and co-founder of the Blue Marine Foundation, said it was still far from good enough. “The ocean faces numerous threats, and this report highlights that one of the biggest is simply taking too many fish from the sea, collapsing populations and preventing recovery. The report also highlights the important role that the seabed can play in storing carbon, although in the UK drag it is allowed in most of our so-called protected areas.”

Rebecca Newsom, Greenpeace UK’s head of policy, called for urgent action and tighter regulation. “Our seas are facing a perfect storm of rising temperatures, sewage discharges, plastic and chemical pollution, and destructive industrial fishing. This is an existential threat to both marine life and the communities that depend on healthy seas for their survival,” she said.

“What we need are legally binding targets to halve single-use plastic by 2025, an immediate and complete ban on destructive fishing in all marine protected areas, and tougher sanctions for the water companies responsible for the scandal. sewage,” he added. “The time to reorganize the deckchairs is over: we need a joint, ambitious and properly funded plan from this government and we need it now.”

By sbavh

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