A radical new approach to the protection and use of the marine environment was set out in proposals published today by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

People will be given an opportunity to help shape proposals for the Government’s groundbreaking Marine Bill through today’s White Paper.

The proposals include:

* A new UK-wide system of marine planning;

* A streamlined, transparent and consistent system for licensing marine developments;

* A new mechanism to protect marine biodiversity, including marine protected areas;

* Improvements to the management of marine fisheries;

* The creation of a Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to join up our approach to the marine environment.

Environment Secretary, David Miliband, said:

“Protecting our seas is one of the biggest environmental challenges after climate change and the two are closely linked.

“The proposals in the Marine Bill White Paper are a first for the UK and would raise planning for the management and protection of our seas to a world-leading level.

“This White Paper gives people the chance to help the Government do what is needed to effectively balance all of our marine needs and demands, and to achieve our vision for a clean, healthy, safe, productive, and biologically diverse marine environment.

“The Marine Climate Change Impact Partnership’s Annual Report Card strongly suggests that marine climate change will have important consequences for all elements of our marine environment, with significant impacts on the biological diversity, cleanliness and safety, and commercial productivity of our seas.

Marine and Fisheries Minister, Ben Bradshaw, added :

“I have often said that we afford much more protection to our natural environment on land because we can see it, but our marine environment suffers because its life is under water where it is not easily observed.

“Through this consultation, we want to ensure that the Marine Bill provides us with the tools to effectively manage activities in the marine area. We must deliver the right balance between protection of the environment and social and economic needs.

“A new marine planning system lies at the heart of our proposals. It will enable us to take a strategic approach to marine activities throughout our waters. It will benefit all those who use our seas and will be key to securing the maximum sustainable benefits from our marine resources, whilst ensuring we can provide proper protection for them.

“This White Paper is a significant step towards our commitment to legislation in the current Parliament. The proposals we set out in it will help us achieve a framework for our seas fit for the 21st Century and that will stand the test of time, so that future generations will continue to benefit from a clean, healthy and productive marine environment.”