South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands: Marine Protected Area

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:16 pm on 22 November 2023.

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Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development) 5:16, 22 November 2023

I will be very quick. However, I note that the SNP spokesperson, Douglas Chapman, took about seven and a half minutes and I should have an equivalent length of time, if that is okay. I will be as quick as I can, because I do want the Minister to answer.

I come on to my questions for the Minister. Concerns have obviously been expressed about sustainability by Great Blue Ocean and many other organisations. Can she explain to what extent the UK’s interests and the aims and operations of CCAMLR align, and will she say how we will work to protect the region and make sure that, crucially, we make data-based decisions about the measures that are brought in?

Can the Minister explain what our ambitions in terms of climate change are and what the evidence is about how the changes in the marine environment, in particular, are affecting fishing stocks and krill stocks? There has been a mean temperature increase in South Georgia of between 0.9% and 2.3% between January and August, and 97% of glaciers have retreated. Those are really serious issues.

Can the Minister explain how we are consulting environmental and scientific experts in the region? In particular, given the nature of the governance of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, can she explain how that operates and say whether we have any plans to ensure that there is full accountability? There are obviously a lot of concerns in the Falkland Islands about how decisions are taken, a little distance away across the oceans.

The blue belt programme and all the global initiatives are absolutely critical. They enjoy our full support, but we need to make sure that we are ready and aware of the challenges to come—geopolitical, environmental and otherwise—so that we make the very best decisions to protect our crucial oceanic biodiversity and resources.