February, 2013

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Safeguard our sea life

Find out what we're doing around the UK's coasts to help protect our wonderful sea life
  • FishFight Hot Foots it to Westminster

    Don’t be surprised if you see sharks, starfish, skate, seabirds and SCUBA divers ‘swimming’ up the South Bank this morning.  

    Led by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and FishFight, the Marine Conservation Society, Sea Life, British Sub Aqua Club and supporters are marching on Westminster, calling for better protection of our marine environment.

    As we said last week, we welcome all efforts to highlight the urgent need for better protection for the marine environment.  Well done to everyone taking part and doing their bit.

    Whether you are able to take part in the march or not, you can add your voice to the call for an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas (MPAs) around the UK by adding your name to our e-actions.

    To help protect the seas around Northern Ireland, click here today.

    Come back next week to help protect the seas around England.

    We expect the next steps for Wales and Scotland to happen in the summer.  Why not sign up to this blog to get a reminder straight in to your inbox?

    Image courtesy of FreeFoto.com

  • Hugh's...Crustacean Fight?

    By Rory Crawford, Senior Policy Officer (Global Seabird Programme)

    It definitely has less of a ring than Hugh's Fish Fight, but this week's show had a distinctly less fishy flavour – it focussed on krill, the tiny crustacean that props up the Antarctic food web. I don't say that to gloss over the krill itself – to my mind it's a bonnie little creature – but it is food to some of our planet's most incredible species – Macaroni and chinstrap penguins, blue whales, albatrosses and crabeater seals.

    The one other predator, of course, is man. Hugh spent time on an industrial krill trawler, seeing first hand the new techniques being used to extract krill from the Southern Ocean – leading him to ponder whether our environmental stewardship will be better in the krill fishery than it has been for many other beleaguered fish stocks.

    On his trip to South Georgia – a UK Overseas Territory – the immense biological significance of the area became completely clear: penguins, whales and fur seals in abundance! He also saw wandering albatross, and witnessed the problems caused when these birds interact with longline fishing vessels – something the RSPB has worked to try and eliminate, working with the world's tuna fleets.

    Earlier this year, the South Georgia and Sandwich Islands Government consulted on proposals to improve the marine protection around the islands. While we welcome the initiative of the government in establishing marine protected areas, we feel the measures they’re proposing don’t go far enough. Proposals to extend the closure of the krill fishing season, which would have offered additional protection for penguins at critical times in their lifecycle, have been dropped.

    RSPB also proposed extending the fisheries closed area, which would protect most of the feeding chinstrap penguins that nest on the islands during the breeding season. This proposal was, unfortunately, rejected.

    As one of the few remaining pristine areas of the Southern Ocean, we believe that the whole area surrounding the South Sandwich Islands should be subject to the strictest levels of marine protection. Again, our proposal for an extension to existing protection was not taken up.

    No prizes for guessing what happened to our suggestion that hydrocarbon and mineral extraction should be banned in the pristine protected areas of the far south...

    It's great to see progress for marine conservation – but this definitely feels like a missed opportunity to better protect some of the world's most incredible wildlife.

    You saw the show - what do you think?

    Wandering albatross: N Cobley

  • Northern Ireland's sealife needs your voice today

    By Colum Delaney, Policy Advocacy Officer, Northern Ireland

    In June 2012, more than 200 school children made the journey from the gates of Stormont, to the steps of Parliament Buildings. Dressed as starfish, puffins and all other manner of sea creatures - they sang, chanted and really made their voices heard for a Northern Ireland Marine Bill. In addition, a life size (approx 25 feet long) wicker basking shark model had been created in advance of the march and added to the colour and drama of a wonderful day, as pupils helped carry this ‘giant of the seas’ to its destination.

    It was a powerful sight, and the pupils were greeted on the steps of Stormont by both the Environment Minister Alex Attwood and the Chairperson of the Environment Committee Anna Lo.

    They say that the journey from the main gates of the Stormont estate to the steps of Parliament Buildings is precisely one mile and on a warm summer’s day and with a steep walk to the ‘House on the Hill’, it certainly felt every inch the full mile.

    Unfortunately, precision is not a word we can ascribe to the timescale of the Marine Bill.

    Here we are in February 2013, and the long-awaited Bill has yet to pass the final legislative hurdle. All indications are that it remains ‘stuck’ at the Executive (the decision making body made up of the five largest political parties), with no sign of movement 

    We are already way behind similar marine legislation in England, Scotland and Wales and until this legislation is passed, work cannot take place to designate our Marine Conservation Zones (Marine Protected Areas) – our best areas for habitats and species. The Marine Bill is the vital component in planning a long term future for our seas.

    In order to try to move the Bill along, the RSPB (working through the Northern Ireland Marine Taskforce) are encouraging people to take a few minutes to log on and send a simple pre-prepared email to their local MLAs, asking them to call for an end to this delay.  Click here to add your voice to save Northern Ireland's marine life.

    Those who took the long walk to Stormont are becoming restless – and rightly so. 

    If you want to find out more about the RSPB's work in Northern Ireland, visit www.rspb.org.uk/northernireland 

    For more information about the Northern Ireland Marine Taskforce, visit www.nimtf.org.uk