That was among the messages from Phil Gawne MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, when he addressed a sub-group of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Biodiversity.
The session took place in the House of Commons on Monday 12 May and discussed the Environmental Audit Committee’s report on Sustainability and Overseas Territories, which lists marine protection as a key theme.
Minister Gawne said Manx territorial waters were home to internationally important species and habitats and that research the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture was carrying out using its fisheries protection vessel, laboratory staff, universities, electronic and remote monitoring and public sightings schemes was contributing to better understanding of the marine environment.
Another key influence in progressing marine protection was vital support from the fishing industry and the wider community, particularly as many areas benefited commercial fisheries as well as non-commercial species.
More than 3% per cent of Manx waters are designated as Marine Protected Areas under Acts of Tynwald, the Minister told the group. This includes closed areas and areas where fishing is restricted, plus a large marine nature reserve.
DEFA is keen to share its progress to date with other islands, although ‘there is still much to do and understand’, the Minister said.
The Minister also outlined work he was doing in Sierra Leone in his dual roles of DEFA Minister and Chairman of the Isle of Man Government’s International Development Committee. The Isle of Man has donated a fisheries protection boat and is assisting with the provision of satellite-based vessel monitoring systems for fishermen.
The Minister said:
‘In a House of Lords debate on the UK Marine and Coastal Access Bill, the Isle of Man was described as “the hole in the middle of the Irish Sea” but in reality much more work is being done to understand and improve our marine environment than that of our neighbours.’
The Minister’s address can be read here.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Biodiversity enables politicians, policy-makers, academics, industry figures and interested parties to discuss and promote policy, law changes and understanding about the topic in the UK and abroad.
Mr Gawne was joined in making addresses by Mark Simmonds MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whose responsibilities include overseas territories, and Lord de Mauley, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Natural Environment and Science.
Attached is a photo showing Minister Gawne with, from left, Lord de Mauley, Barry Gardiner MP, Shadow Minister for Natural Environment and Chairman of the APPG on Biodiversity, who chaired the session, and Mark Simmonds MP.