Grim news last week as scientists show that the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill on the marine wildlife of the Gulf of Mexico are much more pervasive and more serious than was previously imagined.
And while Total confirm that there is no longer a naked flame burning just above the flammable gas cloud on their stricken, leaking North Sea platform, the fact remains that an estimated 200,000 cubic metres of gas is still escaping every day, poisoning the waters around the rig, with who knows what implications for marine wildlife in the vicinity. Most worryingly, Total seem somewhat nonplussed by the incident, with confusion around what is actually going on, never mind how to fix it (which, we are told, could take up to 6 months…).
Nonetheless, BP have been given consent for their deep-water drilling west of Shetland.
All this adds up to a very worrying picture – surely Government should be investing more in clean, renewable energy technologies rather than prioritising the chase for ever-diminishing supplies of fossil fuels in ever-harder to reach places, where the consequences for marine wildlife of any incident would be catastrophic? Contingency planning can only go so far – and as these incidents keep proving, even the best laid contingency plans don’t guarantee an adequate response.
We're working hard to protect our marine environment, including tackling Government about issues like these. If you want to help us, consider becoming a Sealife Guardian today.
Oiled guillemot: Mike Richards (rspb-images.com)
Great news reported in the Daily Mail this morning - the 5p levy on plastic bags introduced in Wales just 6 months ago has resulted in a 90% drop in use. This follows the earlier success in Ireland, where a similar drop in use was seen after they introduced a levy on single use plastic bags way back in 2002. Northern Ireland will introduce a levy next year, and Scotland are considering following suit. That would just leave England.... There have been hints, but no firm commitment. Come on Westminster, surely this is a no brainer?
According to the Mail report, plastic bags are often used for about 20 minutes. Just 20 minutes. Too many plastic bags then end up in our seas, where they look enticingly like jellyfish to turtles and other marine wildlife. Unfortunately what looks like a tasty snack turns out to be a death knell. So in addition to the climate-change inducing resources required to make these bags, and the many lifetimes it takes for them to rot away, they are killers too.
UK supermarket customers use over 6 billion bags a year, and the latest figures available indicate that overall, use across the UK has started to increase again. Last year the Government's waste management agency Wrap reported a 0.3 billion increase of single use plastic bags by UK supermarket customers from 2009 to 2010.
Clearly a small levy prompts more people to make the better choice more often. Much more often. The news from Wales can only step up the pressure on all administrations to follow suit.
If you're looking for an eco-friendly alternative for your shopping, check out the latest RSPB designs in our online shop today.
By Gareth Cunningham, Marine Policy Officer, Wales
The Welsh Government has launched its Marine consultation Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) - Potential Site Options for Welsh Waters to create new highly protected Marine Conservation Zones (hpMCZ) in Welsh waters. This is an important step towards safeguarding marine biodiversity and recovering the health of Welsh seas. Unlike the rest of the UK, Wales has decided to designate highly protective areas. These sites will be protected from the extraction and deposition of living and non-living resources and all other damaging activities. The final sites are intended to supplement the existing Marine Protected Areas and contribute to the recovery, resilience of these areas whilst developing a better understanding of natural ecosystems.
The 10 candidate sites are located: Skomer, Dale In Pembrokeshire, South West of Strumble Head, an Offshore site near Newquay, Bardsey Island, St Tudwal’s Island, a site on the North Llyn peninsula, the Mouth of the Dwyfor, North east Menai Strait and Puffin Island. An interactive map can be found here.
The consultation will end on 31 July and until then members of the public, sea users and coastal communities have the opportunity to share their views on proposed potential locations for new protected areas called Marine Conservation Zones in Wales. The Welsh Government intends to designate 3-4 hpMCZs by early 2014.
RSPB Cymru will be responding to the consultation and calling on our supporters to get involved and have their say. Further details of how to get involved will be uploaded soon and on twitter @RSPBCymru, or you can follow #hpMCZs
Photo Anthony Griffiths
By Alec Taylor, Marine Policy Officer
Anybody? If you haven’t, I can assure you that as with much legislation coming down from Brussels, the writing style might be a little dry but the storyline’s really important. It’s likely to be a really powerful driver for improving the health of our marine ecosystems, including its most valuable habitats and species. And of course that includes seabirds as essential parts of the picture!
The overall aim of the Directive is to get all EU marine waters into what’s called “Good Environmental Status”, a broad term which means that marine ecosystems are healthy, diverse and productive and that human usage of the sea is not harming the environment in the short and long term. This covers a huge range of factors, from biodiversity to fisheries, from reducing litter, pollution and underwater noise to getting rid of alien species.
Each coastal Member State has until 2020 to get its waters into this condition – no mean feat given the history of deterioration and unsustainable usage of our seas in the past. This year the UK has published its assessment of what Good Environmental Status means for our waters, and what targets it will be using to get our waters from here to there. The RSPB along with other NGOs will be pushing the government to show a real level of ambition - this isn’t about maintaining the status quo (lord forbid those haircuts) or delivering ‘sustainable development’, this is about getting our marine environment back up to the quality where sustainable use is even possible.
UK seabirds will be a key part of the process, including targets for certain species such as black-legged kittiwakes, which are excellent indicator species for the wider environment. It’s a real opportunity for us to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than when we found it (as the government itself has stated here). Lots of work to do!
Keep an eye on this blog to find out when and how your voice will make the most impact on Government's decisions about our seas - such as the belated public consultation on proposals for Marine Protected Areas, currently expected around the end of the year. You can sign up to email alerts for this blog by just clicking on the link on the top right hand side. Together we can step up and safeguard our sealife.
Puffins: Anthony Griffiths
This is Sarah Outen. Check out her other photos on her flickr site, and you will instantly get a sense of joie de vivre from this brave British adventurer. She is impressive, fun and fabulous.
And frankly utterly certifiable.
Sarah is currently on the coast of Japan, and on tenterhooks, waiting for a break in the weather. She is preparing to set off on the latest leg of London2London, her incredible round the world expedition by kayak, bicycle and ocean rowing boat. This section of her dangerous journey is a real biggie - a record breaking solo row across the North Pacific. That's the widest bit of the Pacific. With no convenient islands to break the journey or offer sactuary. Completely alone, and completely under her own steam. She will be the first woman to do this, ever.
If you've read A Dip in the Ocean, Sarah's riveting tale of her solo row across the Indian Ocean, you will no doubt already be picturing all too close encounters with container ships that could spell a sudden and lonely death, and imagining the isolation of spending so many months alone, with no engine to take you home at the flick of a switch, just your own aching muscles. You may also remember that Sarah is scared of deep water!
So what drives her? Sarah is a true adventurer, and passionate about using her experiences to educate and inspire us all about this planet we all call home - the wildlife and the people, the threats they face, and what we can all do to help mitigate those threats.
She's a class act, no doubt about it. Go, Sarah!