An albatross in flight against a blue sky

Our successes: sea

Wildlife knows no boundaries, so we have to work at sea as well as on land, to ensure its survival.

We’ve done it!

One of the ways we’re safeguarding life at sea is through successful campaigning for special protections. South Georgia, 808 miles (1,300 km) south-east of the Falkland Islands, is home to very important numbers of gentoo penguins. A Marine Protected Area (MPA) was set up here in 2012, ensuring that krill fishing does not take place here during the breeding season. However, the penguins are resident here all year round. Following a tracking study, with the British Atlantic Survey, we presented the government with data that showed the gentoos regularly forage in the krill fishery area. Following this action, the Government extended the no-fishing zone around the island to 18 miles (30 km), ensuring the gentoos are protected.

Since 2013, we’ve been campaigning to designate Ascension Island in the South Atlantic an MPA, as it’s a very important tropical seabird island. We were thrilled by the news that in March 2019, the Chancellor approved this plan, created the largest highly-protected marine reserve in the Atlantic, safeguarding green turtles and one of the world’s most important tropic seabird nesting sites.

Thank you for playing your part in these success stories.

Gannet eating a fish

Keeping albatrosses off the hook

Albatrosses are stunning seabirds, spending most of their lives soaring over the oceans. But each year over 100,000 albatrosses meet tragic ends tangled in fishing gear, dragged underwater by trawl cables or caught on baited hooks. As they raise a chick just once every one or two years, they can’t compensate for these losses. 15 of the 22 albatross species are at risk of extinction.

We teamed up with BirdLife International to form the Albatross Task Force (ATF). ATF operates around the world, working with fishing fleets, communities and governments to stop accidental catching and killing of albatrosses.

Since the ATF began working with trawl fisheries in South Africa, albatross deaths have declined by 99%. This is testament to the team who have worked in collaboration with fishers and local authorities to introduce colourful streamers to fishing vessels. These act as bird-scaring lines, keeping birds away from the trawl cables, which can drag them underwater or cause broken wings.

Future sustainability relies on ensuring local people have the skills and desire to continue protecting seabirds. Looking ahead, our focus will be on training individuals within governments and the fishing industry so they can keep seabird mortality rates low, for good.

Albatross in flight

Cyprus bird trapping hits record low

Every year, an estimated 25 million birds are illegally killed around the Mediterranean, including on Cyprus, where the UK has two Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs).

In the nineties, the situation escalated with the introduction of mist nets, and trappers planting huge areas of non-native acacia shrub to place their nets on the Eastern SBA (ESBA).

In 2002, the RSPB set up a monitoring programme to track levels of trapping. Initially, trapping levels fell, but by 2007 it increased. In autumn 2016, trapping levels in the ESBA peaked at 183% above the 2002 baseline.

The RSPB’s Investigations Team and the SBA police began a covert surveillance operation to obtain footage of trappers catching and killing birds. This evidence has led to convictions involving substantial fines and lengthy suspended jail sentences.

Although acacia removal is still on hold, the military have been actively removing the associated irrigation infrastructure and as a result, large areas of acacia are dying back, reducing their attractiveness for trapping. In March 2019, BirdLife Cyprus published the autumn 2018 trapping survey, which estimated that 250,000 birds were killed within the survey areas. This is 90% below the 2002 baseline, the lowest level since the survey started.

Small bird caught in netting