How Monaco’s Prince Albert is helping Scotland’s marine life

 April 9, 2018

Kevin Keane meets Prince Albert II of Monaco in Edinburgh
Kevin Keane meets Prince Albert II of Monaco in Edinburgh / Photo: BBC News


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Who would have thought that inspiration for protecting Scotland’s seas would come from a place with one of the shortest coastlines in the world?

The Principality of Monaco, on the Mediterranean, is leading the charge and has brought its campaign to the capital.

Ruling monarch, Prince Albert II, heads the Monaco Blue Initiative and has launched his 2018 conference at the University of Edinburgh.

Oceanographers and experts from across the globe have been meeting to discuss issues from ocean acidification to plastic pollution.

The Prince recognises that the seas are making a growing contribution to world economies but wants international agreement on how to balance that exploitation with environmental protection.

He told me: “The recognition that oceans have to be taken into consideration when you consider all issues concerning the environment, with climate change at the forefront of that, I think is extremely important.

“Without a healthy ocean we cannot have a good future.

“Not only in your region but in the North Sea, scientists have done tremendous work. But I also think they can contribute further in better understanding and better knowledge gathering on not only this ocean but oceans around the world.”

Scotland’s coastline is more than 7,000 miles long whereas Monaco’s is less than three.

But its rich inhabitants with their expensive boats give it an impressive harbour and so the connection with the sea is obvious.

Beyond the recently documented concerns about plastic pollution, the environmental impacts of and on our oceans is less obvious.

“Half of the air that we breathe is produced by the oceans and if you just want to take home that concept then that’s reason enough for us to be concerned about our oceans,” Prince Albert added.

With aquaculture, largely sea farming, playing such an important part in our rural economies, Scotland’s has a distinct relationship with the water.

On top of that is the growing demand for renewable energy from offshore wind, wave and tidal power.

Professor of Climate Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Sandy Tudhope, has been leading the conference.

He said people are “joining the dots” in our relationship with the oceans.

“The ocean is there as a resource but it’s also fragile. It can be damaged. I think the public is becoming much more aware of that tension between opportunity and threat.

“It’s definitely about how you work together. The phrasing is a ‘blue growth’ agenda and it’s {about} how do you actually achieve something that supports economies, supports societies, supports cultural ways of life, but also respects life in the ocean and the services it provides to us environmentally.

“They can work together but it’s difficult and it’s challenging.”

One major focus for the conference is the implementation of Marine Protected Areas.

These designations are already being rolled out in Scotland for the protection of ecosystems and sea features but the institute wants a global inventory of MPAs and a better understanding of their impact on climate change.

Environmental groups raised concerns in 2017 when fishing gear caused damage to a rare reef in Loch Carron which was not protected.

Robert Calcagno, Chief Executive Officer at the Oceanographic Institute, said:

“I think the two major threats over the ocean are over-exploitation and pollution. Over exploitation is overfishing but it’s also oil and gas. We need to use the ocean but we need to do it in a sustainable way.”

Originally published by Kevin Keane at BBC News

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