Waves of change for wildlife

Marine conservation forms a large part of the RSPB's work and the last year was no exception.

Marine conservation

Saving seabirds

We’re pleased to report on the recovery programmes for little terns and roseate terns, both supported by EU LIFE+ funding. Across the UK’s major tern colonies, both these species are feeling the benefits of coastal habitat creation and further conservation efforts.

As an example, roseate terns on our Coquet Island nature reserve off the coast of Northumberland matched their all-time high of 111 pairs, with a breeding success rate of 1.5 chicks fledged per pair.

International efforts to improve the fortunes of terns are continuing: a first assessment of tern trapping in Ghana, where most European roseate terns winter, sadly found that terns are still being killed, which is an issue that needs to be tackled.

Scaring albatrosses to save them

The Albatross Task Force is continuing to make great progress in reducing the numbers of these seabirds killed as bycatch. Argentina and Chile are the latest countries to take action, making it law for trawlers to use bird-scaring lines, to discourage seabirds from the danger zones around the boats.

It’s estimated this will save at least 9,000 birds a year. The latest findings from Namibia show a major reduction in albatrosses being caught as bycatch, which demonstrates the positive longer-term effects of the project.

Island restoration

A little closer to home, we’re celebrating the fact that the Shiant Isles have officially been declared rat-free – the result of a four-year programme to make sure this remote Scottish island remains one of the most important breeding colonies for seabirds in Europe.

This follows the successful completion of the Isles of Scilly Seabird Restoration Project. The first Manx shearwaters and storm petrels in living memory have returned to crown this community-backed HLF/EU LIFE-funded project.

This year also saw the start of what may be our biggest challenge yet in terms of island restoration – plans to rid the Orkney mainland of stoats and, in doing so, protect threatened breeding wading birds. Our best practice toolkit for rodent eradication was launched this year and is helping further establish the RSPB’s international reputation as experts in island restoration.

Shaping policy

Looking to marine conservation policy more generally, we’re continuing to press for legislation that will protect marine habitats, particularly in relation to proposed Marine Conservation Zones (see pages 33 and 49 for more information) and proposals to create a belt of Marine Protection Areas around the UK’s overseas territories.

Additionally the plans to leave the European Union, and consequently the Common Fisheries Policy, have focused attention on the need for an environmentally-friendly UK fisheries policy and this is an area in which we will continue to work to achieve the best for nature.

Reflecting on the last year, it’s clear that while there are some important achievements to celebrate, there are many more challenges ahead.