University scientists contribute to government’s Future of the Sea report

Scientists from the University of Plymouth have contributed to a major government report exploring the role the UK’s scientific and technological expertise can play in understanding and providing solutions to the long-term issues affecting the sea.

The Foresight Future of the Sea report, published by the Government Office for Science, identifies four major areas that can deliver opportunities for the UK by exploiting its science and innovation.

These include an improved understanding of the sea, greater co-ordination, a long-term approach to decision making and the increasing global nature of the challenges we face.

The report includes detailed written evidence from experts in academia and industry across the UK, and among those invited to contribute are the University’s Professor Richard Thompson OBE and Professor Tom Hutchinson.

Professor Thompson, Head of the International Marine Litter Research Unit, wrote about the causes and potential solutions to plastic pollution and how it impacts the UK’s marine life, marine industries and human health. He said:

“This Foresight report demonstrates that science has a major role to play in advancing government policy. It can make people more aware of environmental and health issues, but also to help identify the ways we can tackle it going forward. Contributing to it provided an outstanding opportunity to take a multidisciplinary look at the wider issue of plastic pollution, something that we in Plymouth have been pursuing through our research for many years."

Professor Hutchinson, Professor in Environment and Health Sciences, wrote about some of the chemical and physical contaminants found in the ocean, examining current and future levels of pollutants, the implications for marine biodiversity, fisheries and seafood, and international and regional legislation. He said:

“Clearly the Future of the Sea report is very timely given the increased knowledge we have of the seas around the UK and its overseas territories. What is clear from my own review is the need to take an integrated approach to protect of precious marine resources. It also shows we need to look at chemicals, radiation, noise, light and other forms of marine pollution in a holistic way and ensure we harness the skills of marine scientists to meet the challenges of the future.”

The report outlines a number of recommendations to help the UK utilise its current expertise and technological strengths to foster trade links, build marine capacity across the world and collaborate to tackle climate change.

This report considers the role that science and technology can play in understanding and providing solutions to the long-term issues affecting the sea.

It outlines a number of recommendations to help the UK utilise its current expertise and technological strengths to foster trade links, build marine capacity across the world and collaborate to tackle climate change.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon said:

“Both the opportunities and the challenges set out in this important report are global in scale and demand our urgent attention. The UK is rightly recognised as a world leader in the marine and maritime fields. We must keep pushing our scientific understanding of the oceans, harness new technologies, and support commercial innovation. Most of all, we must ensure that governments keep pace with this changing environment. International collaboration remains crucial in order to realise the fullest benefits of our marine industries and scientists, for the UK and the world.”

Spotlight: Professor Tom Hutchinson

From my scientific training, I feel there is an absolutely fundamental link between human health and wildlife health. That has been my driving principle in a professional capacity: people cannot be healthy if the world they live in is not healthy.

Learn more about Professor Tom Hutchinson

Professor Richard Thompson says:

In the UK, scientists have for years been saying that more needs to be done to combat the problems posed by marine litter and microplastics. But it is only by creating a sea change in public ways of thinking that we can bring about a positive change

Read more about the International Marine Litter Research Unit