South Tyneside Council has become the first local authority in the North of England to declare a "Motion for the Ocean", which is a pledge to protect and promote ocean recovery.
Like the Climate Emergency, this pledge is multi-faceted and calls on the government, ministers, industries and the general public to all play their part in protecting and investing in our coastal areas.
Councillor Ernest Gibson told ITV News Tyne Tees: "These coastal towns are deprived and they need input and they need ministerial guidance, but also they need funding. We’re going to set a website up, which educates people about the coastal (areas) and why it is important. All this is about economy, bringing jobs and the green agenda and making a good, healthy environment and where you get a good, healthy environment, you get happy people."
As part of the Motion, the council recommends:
Ocean recovery is considered in all council decisions and budgeting
People are educated about the importance of the ocean
Everyone is given "equitable access" to coastal areas
Industries and businesses develop in sustainable ways
All children are given the chance to experience their local coastal areas to educate them
The Motion also calls for a designated Minister of Coastal Areas and for the Government to provide more funding to coastal towns and villages, which are among the most deprived locations in the country.
A Defra spokesperson said: “The UK is a global leader in the fight to protect our seas, with Environment Minister Rebecca Pow already leading our vital work on clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans.
“We’re continuing to go further, with our Fisheries and Environment Acts at the heart of an ambitious programme to improve and protect our marine environment. This includes action to secure clean and biologically diverse seas, and plans to restore our fish stocks to sustainable levels across the UK.”
And on funding, a Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities told ITV News: "Through our multi-billion-pound investment programme - which includes the Humber Freeport alongside seven others - we are levelling up every part of the UK, including coastal communities.
“Our coastal areas have already benefited from over £600 million through successful bids into Town Deals and the Future High Streets Fund. Of the 101 towns receiving a Town Deal, 22 of them are coastal.
“The forthcoming £2.6 billion UK Shared Prosperity Fund will also help people access opportunity in places in need, such as ex-industrial areas, deprived towns and rural and coastal communities, and for people in disadvantaged groups across the UK.”
How to achieve Coastal Recovery
Experts claim there are many ways communities can achieve coastal recovery. One group that has been leading the way on coastal protection is SeaScapes.
SeaScapes is a partnership of organisations across the natural, cultural and heritage sectors that have come together to better protect and celebrate the unique coastline and marine environment to six nautical miles out between the rivers Tyne and Tees.
It is funded by a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £2.8million, matched by partner contributions and volunteer time.
Karen Daglish of SeaScapes said: "Whether it is things like not dropping litter, think about the ways they heat their homes and the carbon that that generates and how the ocean has a role in absorbing that carbon. If we can start to connect people to the seaside, to the ocean, if they can learn about what’s out there, if they look beneath the waves at the hidden maritime and marine heritage then we can all start to play a role in better protecting it for the future as well."
South Tyneside is the third council in the country to declare an ocean recovery pledge and one marine and coastal expert involved in the "Motion for the Ocean" declarations said it can have multiple benefits.
Emily Cunningham said: "A healthy ocean can provide jobs, it provides lots of health and wellbeing opportunities. It can sustain a thriving local economy, which can also help to contribute to net zero if it’s done in the right way and also bring more wildlife to the coast, which we can all enjoy, so a recovered ocean really is good news for everybody."