Anna Turley MP has visited a conservation project in Teesside dedicated to reversing the fortunes of the little tern, one of the UK's most threatened seabirds.
The MP for Redcar is helping to secure a future for the rare bird by giving it her political support and becoming the little tern 'species champion'.
Little terns spend the winter on the west coast of Africa and return to our coastline at the end of April. These rare birds lay eggs on the beach and are very susceptible to human interference, as well as predation and high tides, which can wash away their nests. As a result, their breeding population in the UK has dropped by more than 20% in the past three decades.
Last Friday (21 July) Anna Turley joined representatives from the RSPB, Redcar and Cleveland Council and the Industry Nature Conservation Association (INCA) at South Gare at the mouth of the Tees Estuary, where there are encouraging signs that little terns will re-colonise the former breeding site after an absence of almost 20 years. While little terns are not yet regularly fledging chicks there, birds are frequently seen at the site and there have been three individual nesting attempts in the past three years. On Friday, there were around 150 little terns.
South Gare is one of around 20 existing or potential little tern breeding sites across the UK helped by the EU LIFE Little Tern Recovery Project. Led by the RSPB and involving nine other partners, the project aims to halt the decline of the species nationally by using a range of measures at the sites including 24 hour nest protection, wardening, increasing public awareness and fencing off potential nesting areas.
Anna Turley MP said: I am delighted to support the little tern as part of the Species Champions partnership, and continue to work with the RSPB to promote the preservation of this rare seabird. I want to help bring a healthy population of little terns back to the Cleveland coast and to the South Gare.
"It saddens me that little tern numbers have decreased so rapidly in recent years. We all have a social responsibility to safeguard the future of this bird through providing greater protection to our coastlines.
"The Government must also ensure that the Repeal Bill put in front of Parliament retains European environmental protections for species such as the Little Tern and put forward a long term plan which would ensure the wider sustainability of our natural environment and our wildlife."
Mike Leakey of the Industry Nature Conservation Association (INCA), which leads on little tern recovery at South Gare, said: "We are delighted that Anna is to become species champion for little tern, a seabird that for many decades has been emblematic of the Redcar coastline in summer, and which the Recovery Project is working hard to attract back to nest here."
Sue Rendell-Read, the RSPB's Little Tern EU LIFE+ Project Manager, said: "Under the EU LIFE Project we are working with partners to create new, and restore former, colonies so there are more places for little terns to breed along our busy shores.
"Little terns need a space free from disturbance between May and early August each year to raise their young. Working together we can create a few more spaces for them to nest to help reverse their decline and continue to enjoy the spectacle of this wonderful small seabird."