Living Seas


Living Seas

Grey seal. Image by: Alexander Mustard/2020VISION.

What does Living Seas mean to you?

A rocky reef bursting with brightly coloured fish, corals and sponges? Leaping dolphins and playful seals? Fishermen hauling nets full of big, tasty fish?

Living Seas are The Wildlife Trusts’ vision for the future of the UK’s seas. Within Living Seas, marine wildlife thrives, from the depths of the ocean to the coastal shallows.  Around half the UK's wildlife lives in the sea – from microscopic plankton to mighty whales. But our seas are under pressure from all sides.  Decades of neglect have left them damaged and degraded. We need your support to bring them back to life. With new laws and Government commitments in the offing, if we press and make the best of it, our seas can turn a corner and start to recover their health.

What are the main problems?


More than any other human activity, this has the potential to cause widespread damage to marine habitats and wildlife. Concerns about food security and dwindling wild fish stocks, mean that farming of seafood is likely to increase, so there is a need to ensure this industry is environmentally sustainable.  Practical action can be taken to prevent the accidental capture of animals such as dolphins and seabirds, minimise the damage to seabed habitats from heavy fishing gear, reduce impacts on the marine food-web, and ensure target species are not over-fished. Good progress is being made through the management of fisheries in designated European Marine Sites (EMS), meaning our most fragile marine habitats are now protected from the most destructive fishing activities.

Climate change

Climate change is leading to an increase in sea temperatures and sea level rise. Species have evolved to live within certain temperatures and we’re already seeing the effects of species moving to different areas, in order to adapt to change. Sometimes species can’t adapt, or there may not always be space, either through competition with other species or physical barriers, and they die out. We do not believe that renewable energy developments (wind, wave and tidal), which are meant to help with climate change mitigation, should themselves cause unacceptable damage to the very biodiversity which they are aiming to protect.  We believe in the right technology for the right place.


Plastics are a big problem in our marine environment. Plastics never truly go away, they just break down into smaller and smaller pieces. We’re seeing many species mistaking plastics for food, from whales to seabirds and even plankton. Plastic ends up in the food chain and affects us along with everything else.


Eutrophication is a major environmental issue. Nitrates and phosphates, especially from fertilizers, run off the land into rivers and estuaries, promoting massive growth of algae and other plant life (the process of eutrophication). This forms a ‘bloom’ which takes the oxygen from the water, causing the death of fish and molluscs. Cow manure, detergents and discharges from sewage treatment works all contribute to the problem. Estuaries and coastal waters are being monitored and management plans are being strengthened to reach Good Ecological Status under the Water Framework Directive to protect vulnerable areas.

What can you do?

No litter

In the last 15 years the amount of litter on our beaches has almost doubled. Last year, we collected over 1 tonne of litter on Druridge Bay. Please take any litter home or dispose of it carefully in provided bins. Why not join us on a litter pick?

Reduce, reuse and recycle

Over 80% of ocean rubbish is man-made plastics harmful to marine wildlife resulting in strangulation, starvation and injury. Reuse shopping bags; switch from plastic bottles; put your lunch in reusable containers. Always recycle!

Buy seasonal, locally caught, sustainable fish

In the UK, our food travels 20 billion miles per year, with each mile producing carbon dioxide from ships, lorries and planes. Buying locally caught fish dramatically reduces the carbon footprint of the food. The Pocket Good Fish Guide tells you which fish are from sustainable sources.

Join an event, support our campaigns, or volunteer

Explore, learn and have fun on one of our Living Seas events. Why not get involved and let everyone know how much you value this beautiful coastline and sea? Our Coast Care project has a number of current volunteering opportunities available here.

Working together to protect our seas

Northumberland Wildlife Trust is working collectively with the other 45 Wildlife Trusts around the UK to campaign for healthy seas. Attending meetings, responding to consultations and offering advice is a major part of our 'behind the scenes' work. To explore the national Living Seas campaign further, check out The Wildlife Trusts' vision for marine conservation.

In England, nationally important habitats and species are protected through Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). The UK Government designated the MCZ network through a phased approach and designated the first 27 sites at the end of 2013. A further 23 sites were designated at the start of 2016, bringing us up to 50 MCZs in English and Secretary of State waters. 

In June 2018 the Government announced its ambition to create 41 more conservation zones in the seas around England and a consultation took place asking the public to share views on these new sites. The Wildlife Trusts launched the Wave of Support campaign to encourage people to have their say and received over 22,000 responses calling for better protection of our seas! The result of this action by The Wildlife Trusts and others has been the designation of a third round of Marine Conservation Zones in 2019 consisting of 39 MCZs in English waters and further 2 sites designated in Northern Ireland.

We also undertake and support a wide variety of projects that seek to improve knowledge of the marine environment and how best to protect it. For example, the Marine Conservation Society has produced the Good Fish Guide to help us safeguard the future of our fisheries and other marine wildlife by choosing to eat fish from sustainable sources.

Tompot blenny - Bertie Gregory/2020VISION

Tompot blennyy. Image by: Bertie Gregory/2020VISION.


Marine Conservation Zones

Become a friend of MCZs