What were a Gannet and a Black Guillemot doing in Cardiff on Wednesday morning? Well on Wednesday 22 may we (that’s RSPB Cymru and 25 other wildlife orgsniations) launched the State of Nature Report in Techniquest, down in Cardiff Bay. For a low down on the evening go to this blog. But to give the day a marine feel and to grab some attention, the two of us made our way to the steps of the Sennedd to hand out personal invites to our AMs, dressed as an oversized Gannet and Black Guillemot!
With over 1,300 miles of coastline, Wales is an exceptional place for its marine wildlife! RSPB Grassholm with its 39,000 gannets is the third largest colony on the planet, that’s means one in ten of the world's gannets live there. Ynys Feurig, Cemlyn Bay the Skerries are also internationally important, and are home to Sandwich, common and Arctic terns, 3000 pairs of Arctics make their home on the Skerries - the largest UK colony.
But its not just birds! 40% of the world’s population of Atlantic grey seals can be found in the UK. The largest colonies in the Irish Sea are found around the Welsh coastline, particularly on Skomer and RSPB Ramsey Island. There are believed to be approximately 200 bottlenose dolphins in Cardigan Bay, which is one of only two semi-resident bottlenose dolphin populations in the whole of the UK.
But our marine wildlife is under threat and many species are in decline.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN),uses a traffic light system to show at risk species globally. Of the 37 species of seabirds listed by the IUCN, 10 found in Wales are on the red list (most at threat), These include Puffins and arctic terns. Only five species are listed as green (doing ok), that mean a staggering 22 are in amber - a worrying trend of decline.
The impacts on our marine life are many and varied, often suffering from an out of sight – out of mind mentality.
Just this year we’ve seen the devastating impacts of winter storms on Puffins in the North sea, with thousands expected dead. The effects of climate change are increasing the frequency of extreme weather events, its another pressure these birds could do without.
But its not just climate change, marine pollution takes its toll. Already this year we’ve witnessed thousands of deaths linked to multiple at sea releases of polyisobutene or PIBs .You can read more about that here and the work we are doing to prevent further disasters.
Are there any solutions?
We are still campaigning for a complete network of marine protected sites for seabirds. We have a number of sites where our seabirds breed, but very little protection for where they actively feed or undertake other essential activities such as mating rituals.
Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) provide a useful tool to create much needed space to protect both the rare and nationally important species, like bottlenose dolphins, but to also protect the common species – to avoid them becoming rare in the future. Coupled with sensible management of activities at sea we can provide the protection our marine wildlife needs and support truly sustainable activities.
Working in partnership
But we can’t do it alone! The seas are a big place, almost doubling the size of Wales. Only by working in partnership with Government and marine users can we begin to create a sustainable marine environment in Wales. One that ensures recovery of our declining species and creates a real future for all our amazing marine wildlife.
What can you do?
We are committed to driving the changes that needs to happen, but we don’t have all the answers. In his speech at the launch of the State of Nature Report on Wednesday in London, Sir David Attenborough concluded that 'This is a call to arms. The future of Nature lies with you all, and it is a necessity on behalf of the people of this country.'
I couldn’t agree with him more, if you have thoughts on how we can deliver a brighter future for our marine environment we’d love to hear from you. Gareth Cunningham is Marine Policy Officer for RSPB Cymru.
Blog written by Sean Christian, Head of Conservation RSPB Cymru
Experts seldom agree on anything. When they do, it’s usually because the facts are beyond doubt. That was certainly the case yesterday, when experts from all the UK’s wildlife organisations spoke with one voice and a simple, clear message: there’s overwhelming evidence that nature’s in trouble.
What's in the report?
For the first time ever, 25 nature organisations have joined forces to compile the State of Nature report - all the latest scientific data on everything that grows, creeps, crawls, flutters and flaps, collected together to give the biggest, clearest picture yet of what is happening to our wildlife. The world is full of unnecessary reports but this one is vital – it’s a world first - a modern Domesday book for Nature.
That‘s the good news... but the findings are bleak. 60% of (3000+) species for which data are available have declined over the last 50 years. In Wales, one in seven plants is threatened. 63% of our butterflies are declining. Once-common birds like the curlew, lapwing and golden plover, have declined by more than three quarters in recent decades. We have lost corn buntings and turtle doves as regularly breeding species. The pressures on the natural world are growing and our response to the biodiversity crisis is not working. The nature that we take for granted now will not be part of our children's lives when they grow up.
This makes very hard reading, but the challenge to governments and environmental bodies, conservationists and nature-lovers is clear. Business as usual is not enough – it hasn’t stopped these huge declines. Wildlife is at crisis point in Wales.
An emotional launch...
Our State of Nature launch was at Techniquest in Cardiff Bay last night. And what a night it was! Iolo Williams, delivered a challenging keynote address, combining anger and poetry in equal measure, and brought tears to many eyes in the audience as he recalled a lifetime of growing-up, living and working in Wales, and the changes to nature during his 50 years. You could hear a pin drop as he spoke with sadness of water voles gone from streams where he fished as a boy and silent valleys where no curlews call. In a voice wavering with emotion he challenged us all to make a positive difference, so that we can look our grandchildren in the eyes and know we did our bit.
Plantlife’s Dr Trevor Dines gave an equally heartfelt address. He brought the report to life with real examples of conservation success and failure from his on-the-ground experience of working to conserve Wales’ wildflowers and fungi. Trevor emphasised the value of the partnership-approach for giving all of nature a voice, and he took the opportunity to acknowledge and say a big ‘Thank you’ to the multitude of volunteers across Wales who collect the data on our wildlife that made the production of State of Nature, and conservation in general, possible.
The Minister responsible for the Environment, Alun Davies AM, spoke too. He reaffirmed his commitment to our natural environment, demonstrated during the 2010 Biodiversity Enquiry, and his desire to take this forward within his Ministerial brief. He welcomed the report, undertook to respond quickly and work closely with the partnership to find creative solutions here in Wales. After all the evidence of decline, Alun’s response gave a much-needed ray of hope for the nature of Wales.
You can read the full report here: www.rspb.org.uk/stateofnature
So the perks of my job mean that I get to spend some days out of the office with some wonderful volunteers. The place in question is Newport Wetlands Visitor Centre and the wonderful volunteers are 20 corporate volunteers from the Office for National Statistics and Wales & West Utilities.
These two groups of volunteers had chosen to donate their volunteering time to RSPB Cymru for Give and Gain Day. Give & Gain Day is the UK’s only national day of employee volunteering and this year it took place today (Friday 17 May). The day encourages thousands of people across the globe to spend a working day volunteering for good causes in their local community.
The day started out with both groups raring to go, in fact both companies had been busy raising funds for some of the equipment needed to complete the projects a few weeks prior to the volunteering day. What did we get them doing I hear you ask? In the past we have struggled with the timings of Give & Gain day, as May for nature is breeding time – so we do no habitat management and very little estate management. This year our Youth and Education team came up with the perfect creative activity…creating felt mini beasties and creating interpretation slates!
Wales & West Utilities created the felt mini beasties, these will be used in our wildlife garden at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show, helping us to explain to children and adults why certain plants and other garden features are good for certain species. The interpretation slates will also be used at the show to describe what each plant is, when to plant and what it is good for. A final ask was for wildlife bunting to add a touch of pizzazz! to our garden.
The Office for National Statistics were given a very large pile of wood and asked to create nest box packs that we could use in our summer workshops with children, which would encourage them to go home and create a space for wildlife in their own garden. Whilst this sounds quite simple it’s a very time consuming task and each box needs to be cut to a specific size – with a certain hole size for the bird drilled through, then pre drilled so that they are easy for children to put together. Both teams said they’d had a great day and that it really broadened their skill base and built a great team spirit – so all in all the day was a MASSIVE success!! Thank you to everyone who got involved!Emma Roberts is Volunteer Development Officer for RSPB Cymru, if you have been inspired to do something like this please give Emma a call to discuss it further on 02920 353 000.
Katie-jo Luxton, Director of RSPB Cymru, will be speaking at the following Coffee Shop debate organised by the Institute for Welsh Affairs at Chapter next month. Please see below for details about the evening event. If you would like to attend please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 029 2066 0820.
Hope to see you there!
IWA Coffee Shop Debate @ Chapter, Market Street, Canton, Cardiff.6.30-7.30pm on 4th June 2013
Restoring our wildlife – why investing in our natural capital could give Wales the economic edge and true sustainability. With RSPB Cymru’s Director Katie-jo Luxton.Wales is well placed to market its incredible natural environment as a unique visitor destination, bringing both economic investment and jobs to rural communities. Despite wildlife and environmental tourism contributing over £9 billion each year to the Welsh economy, the financial benefits of investing in a healthy environment have largely gone unrecognised.We need to rethink our approach to our natural resources and fully realise their role in underpinning our economy and society. Maximising the value of these assets may be more about their stewardship than their exploitation.We face challenging times ahead, with much of our charismatic wildlife in serious decline and climate change compounding the growing pressures on our environment we risk losing these assets forever. Katie-jo Luxton questions, how our path to economic recovery can go hand in hand with the resurgence of Welsh wildlife.