Press release

Comprehensive study of UK seas published today

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The most authoritative assessment ever on the state of the UK seas has been published today.

Charting Progress 2 is the result of a five-year study into how human use and other pressures, such as climate change, are affecting our seas.  It draws on evidence gathered by scientists from marine agencies, research institutes, universities, environmental organisations and industries around the UK.  All the evidence has been peer reviewed by national and international scientists.

The report looks in detail at how climate change has increased sea levels and temperatures and what impacts that change is having on the marine environment; the changes in the habitats and species in our seas; levels of pollution; and marine industries impacting on marine ecosystems.

The top findings from the report are:

  • Sea levels have risen by 14cm during the last century and surface temperatures have increased by one degree centigrade since the late nineteenth century;
  • Populations of seabirds and harbour seals are declining in some areas;
  • Fish stocks have improved but many are still fished unsustainably;
  • Many estuaries are cleaner and this has increased the diversity and number of fish species;
  • Contamination by hazardous substances (such as heavy metals) has reduced in most regions and there are few or no problems relating to radioactivity, eutrophication, or algal toxins in seafood;
  • Litter, particularly plastic, was found on all beaches surveyed as well as in the sea and on the seabed;
  • Marine industries, contributed  £47 billion to the economy in 2008; and
  • The main pressures on the marine environment are damage to, and loss of, habitat on the seabed from fishing and the presence of physical structures.

Marine Environment Minister, Richard Benyon said:

“Charting Progress 2 is the most comprehensive report on the state of the UK marine environment ever undertaken. Our seas are three times the size of our land and yet while we have many reports that tell us what is happening to our land, we have little to inform us about the state of our seas.

“The UK has one of the world’s richest marine environments with over 8000 species from whales to sponges. This report allows us to monitor our progress and prioritise what action government and business need to take to achieve clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas.”

Charting Progress 2 has been prepared by the UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment Strategy (UKMMAS) community. Defra and the Devolved Administrations are members of UKMMAS, which includes over 40 organisations ranging from government agencies responsible for managing and monitoring our seas to industry and environmental groups.


  • Copies of the full report and overview are at
  • The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) prepared the climate change chapter for Charting Progress 2. The formation of MCCIP was a key recommendation of the first Charting Progress (2005) report and it has since become established as the key forum for transferring scientific evidence on marine climate change to marine stakeholders in the UK. MCCIP published its 2010/11 annual report card on 15 July, see