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A round up of the top countryside, conservation, wildlife and forestry stories as chosen by the CJS Team.


A country more flood resilient - Environment Agency

Environment Secretary announces work to identify additional flood protection measures in Cumbria

Work to identify additional flood protection measures for Cumbrian communities affected by extreme weather events like the record rainfall seen last weekend was announced by Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss today (13/12/15).

The new Cumbrian Floods Partnership group will consider what improvements to flood defences in the region may be needed, look at upstream options for slowing key rivers to reduce the intensity of water flows at peak times and build stronger links between local residents, community groups and flood defence planning.

The group, who will publish a Cumbria Action Plan next summer, will be chaired by Floods Minister Rory Stewart and made up of local authorities, the Environment Agency and community flood defence groups.

Elizabeth Truss said: "After seeing first-hand the impact of the flooding in the north of England it is clear that the growing threat from more extreme weather events means we must reassure ourselves, and those communities at risk, that our defences, our modelling and our future plans are robust."

The Environment Secretary also announced today a National Flood Resilience Review to better protect the country from future flooding and increasingly extreme weather events.

She outlined how her department would look afresh at how we calculate flood risk, in light of recent events, to be delivered by a new cross Government team. This will see Government updating ‘worst case scenario’ planning, considering the future impacts of climate change and carrying out a risk assessment of critical infrastructure, like electricity substations.  


40 year slump for UK Butterflies – Butterfly Conservation

More than three-quarters of the UK’s butterflies have declined in the last 40 years with some common species suffering significant slumps, a major scientific study has revealed.

The State of the UK’s Butterflies 2015 report found that 76% of the UK’s resident and regular migrant butterflies declined in abundance, occurrence or both over the last four decades.

The report, by Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), found that a number of widespread species such as the Wall, Essex Skipper and Small Heath now rank amongst the most severely declining butterflies in the UK.

Butterfly ConservationImage: Butterfly Conservation

The findings also reveal that intensive conservation efforts have started to turn around the fortunes of some of the UK’s most endangered butterflies.

During the last 10 years the numbers of the threatened Duke of Burgundy have increased by 67% and the Pearl-bordered Fritillary has experienced a 45% rise in abundance.

Download The State of the UK’s Butterflies 2015 report and read it in full here  

The report found that some once common and widespread species have become a cause for concern. The Wall, once a common farmland butterfly across southern Britain, has suffered a 36% fall in occurrence and 25% drop in abundance since 2005, continuing a longer trend of decline.


All on board for launch of Marine Conservation Zone consultation - RSPB

Image: Steve RoundThe Northern Ireland Marine Task Force (NIMTF), a coalition of ten environmental organisations including RSPB Northern Ireland, has launched a campaign to support the designation of areas of marine conservation importance.

The campaign is focused on urging the public to respond to the Department of the Environment’s public consultation on four proposed Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) located at Carlingford Lough, Waterfoot, Rathlin Island and Outer Belfast Lough.

Image: Steve Round

NIMTF believe the establishment of new MCZs is vital to strengthen and protect vulnerable wildlife and marine communities such as the black guillemot, seagrass meadows and the ocean quahog, a large clam that lives buried in the sediment of Belfast Lough.


West Sands dunes transformed by unique partnership – Scottish Natural Heritage

The special dunes at the West Sands in St Andrews are recovering well, according to a recent survey by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

The dunes, part of the Eden Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the Firth of Tay and Eden Estuary Special Area of Conservation, were found to be recovering with new dune-forming plants present for the first time in several years.

In March 2010, the dunes were hit by a storm surge at the same time as a particularly high tide, highlighting the severe coastal erosion and flooding of the West Sands. The effects were felt not only at West Sands but also over the Links Courses, adjacent farmland and along large stretches of the north east coast of Scotland.

Access to the dunes is now managed, with sensitive paths closed off, and there are now boardwalks and signed dune paths, providing access to the beach from the car park.

Gavin Johnson, Operations Officer with Scottish Natural Heritage said: “We were delighted to discover the dunes are recovering so well. This is thanks to the hard work of a partnership made up of local councillors, conservation bodies including SNH and the University of St Andrews. We’d like to thank all our partners for working hard with us over the last five years to restore and protect the West Sands dunes.”


Minister commits £6 million to flood prevention - Welsh Government

Funding of £3 million for progressing flood protection works in St Asaph during 2016/17 has been announced by Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant.

The Minister also confirmed that a further £3 million would be made available to the Coastal Risk Management Programme - which will use innovative finance to fund £150m of capital projects for coastal adaptation and resilience to climate change.

The £6 million investment, announced in the budget proposals for 2016-17 earlier this week, supports implementation of the Welsh Government’s core investment priorities set out in the Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan.

The scheme in St Asaph, when completed, will reduce risk along the River Elwy in the heart of the city, benefitting those residents who suffered severe flooding in 2012 and a further near-miss earlier this winter.

It is expected to benefit 414 properties as well as the wider area, including improvements to St Asaph old bridge, access and recreational improvements to the foot and cycle-paths, biodiversity enhancements and the restoration of a small stream.

The funding for the Coastal Risk Management Programme will help fund essential preparatory work needed prior to the construction of individual coastal risk and adaptation schemes.


UK Govt support for EU nature laws welcomed by Friends of the Earth

Today’s (15/12/15) declaration by Environment Minster Rory Stewart that the UK Government doesn’t support a renegotiation of crucial EU nature laws, has been welcomed by Friends of the Earth.

Speaking in an important debate about the future of nature protection in Brussels today, Mr Stewart told the EU Environment Council that the UK does not want to renegotiate European nature directives.  The EU laws protect important sites for nature and iconic species across the EU.

This is the first time that the UK’s position has been clearly set out in support of the directives.  The laws are currently under review by the European Commission prompting concerns that they will be weakened.

A final decision on whether EU nature directives will be changed will be made in 2016.  But there was strong agreement in today’s Environment Council that the focus should be on better implementation of the laws and a majority of Member States did not support opening them up to renegotiation.

Welcoming today’s news, Friends of the Earth CEO Craig Bennett said: “It’s great news that UK Environment Minister Rory Stewart has backed crucial European laws that protect our most precious nature sites and iconic species.  Over half a million people throughout Europe have called for these laws to be maintained and better enforced. Protecting nature is fundamental to our wellbeing and that of future generations – weakening laws that protect nature could have a devastating impact. But nature is in trouble in the UK and across Europe. We need a firm commitment to enforce these laws and tackle the many threats to our natural world including, intensive farming and climate change.”


Published ahead of the vote: Response to the Government’s consultation on restrictions for fracking - Campaign for National Parks

In November the Department of Energy and Climate Change published ‘Surface Development Restrictions for Hydraulic Fracturing’, a consultation setting out how the Government plans to restrict fracking on the surface of National Parks and other protected areas. We have responded to this consultation with a couple of key points.

Firstly, we are pleased that proposals would ban surface drilling in protected areas, and are generally supportive of the Government doing this through introducing restrictions on licence conditions.

However, we are very concerned that the current proposals do not prevent fracking from taking place under National Parks and other protected areas, especially as we don’t yet know what the longer-term effects of this would be on an area’s wildlife and natural beauty. Given this lack of certainty, there should be a complete ban on hydraulic fracturing in protected areas at any depth. 

It is entirely appropriate that such environmentally sensitive areas should be given stronger protection from fracking. Much of the existing protection is insufficient as it is set out in guidance which does not carry the same weight as regulations.  

Read our full consultation response here  

Breaking News: MPs vote to allow Fracking under national parks. The new regulations - which allow drilling from outside the protected areas - were approved by 298 to 261.

Some of the responses 


Response to MP’s vote on fracking - National Trust

Yesterday MPs voted in Parliament to allow fracking in National Parks.

Here is the response of the National Trust to this vote: “The decision by MP’s to allow fracking to happen under National Parks does nothing to allay our real concerns about the impact of fracking on some of the most precious landscapes in the UK. The Trust stands by its call for the Government to rule out fracking in the most sensitive areas – protected wildlife areas, nature reserves and national parks – and make them frack-free zones. There is a need to ensure that regulations offer sufficient protection to our treasured natural and historic environment “There is an urgent need for more evidence about the impact of fracking on the hydrology, ecology and geology of landscapes. This is needed for informed decision-making about any future for fracking in the UK.”

The National Trust is a member of a wider coalition of ten organisations that published a report called ‘Are we fit to frack?‘ 


CPRE disappointment at fracking vote

The parliamentary vote to allow fracking under protected areas undermines Government commitments to safeguard these precious landscapes, CPRE said today.

Rural policy campaigner Emma Marrington said: “CPRE is disappointed that the Government has voted to allow fracking under National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, along with other protected areas. This means that fracking infrastructure will be permitted in areas around our finest landscapes, which would not only cause visual intrusion and damage tranquillity but would also industrialise the settings of our National Parks and AONBs. It is particularly worrying that there was no debate in Parliament on such an important and emotive issue. Ministers continue to claim that fracking infrastructure will not be permitted within protected areas, but we still haven’t seen clear proof that this will be the case. We call on the Government to formalise the regulations to ensure that there is a clear ban on fracking within protected landscapes.” 


Drinking water & national parks under threat after fracking vote - Friends of the Earth

Controversial new rules, pushed through by the Government today to allow fracking in protected areas that surround and feed water into drinking aquifers, put many households’ drinking water at risk of contamination, Friends of the Earth said today.

The plans will also allow fracking under national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty – a U-turn on the Minister’s earlier promise of an ‘outright ban’ on fracking in these areas. The Government had tried to appease concerns by ruling out fracking in national parks, and straight through drinking water aquifers, but has been criticised for still allowing fracking in the protected areas that feed water into aquifers and under national parks.

With the Government plans to open up vast new swathes of the country, thousands of households’ drinking water could be at risk.

Friends of the Earth believes that the government should have allowed all MPs an opportunity to scrutinise the plans in a full debate in the House of Commons.


New fracking laws put wildlife at needless risk, says RSPB 

The RSPB has expressed its disappointment following the announcement of new legislation that allows fracking beneath protected areas in England. 

Reacting to today’s announcement Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “We are concerned and disappointed to see today’s legislation voted through. These new laws will allow fracking 1200m beneath Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Given that we’re dealing with a brand new industry, with very little research to point to, the RSPB believes it would be in the best interests of people and nature to ban fracking entirely within and beneath these important sites and other protected areas.”  

The RSPB is concerned that there is no clear evidence of what a safe depth is beneath these sites to protect water and wildlife. Permitting drilling beneath them could encourage fracking wells to be located nearby, with associated noise, light and chemical pollution posing a risk to wildlife.  

Martin added: “Government’s consultation on plans to ban fracking at the surface in protected areas was a step in the right direction – although it remains a job half done. Today’s decision, permitting the extraction of gas and oil beneath these sites, exposes nature to needless risk.” 


And swift on the heels of the vote the first new licenses were issued:

CPRE outraged at announcement of fracking licences underneath National Parks and AONBs

The announcement that the Government has issued licences to explore for oil and gas underneath protected areas is outrageous, CPRE said today (17/12/15).

Emma Marrington, rural policy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments: “We have always opposed fracking in protected areas, so it is outrageous to see licences announced for fracking underneath three National Parks and five AONBs. With a fracking licence issued for the heart of the North York Moors, the National Park could suffer huge environmental, visual and infrastructure intrusion on its perimeter. This, and the process in general, makes a mockery of the Government’s manifesto pledge to ensure this remains ‘the most beautiful country in the world'. While it is unsurprising that the Government has wasted little time in offering licences following the vote yesterday, it is lamentable that ministers have wasted so much time in outlining the clear and promised safeguards we desperately need if fracking is to go ahead anywhere.”


Marine strategy part three: UK programme of measures - defra policy paper

This strategy outlines the measures that contribute towards Good Environmental Status (GES) in UK seas. 

This strategy outlines the measures that contribute to the achievement and maintenance of GES in UK seas by 2020. It is the final part in our marine strategy and complements the existing parts of the strategy:

Marine strategy part one sets out an initial assessment of our seas and characteristics, targets and indicators of GES

Marine strategy part two sets out monitoring programmes for measuring progress towards GES

The aim of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) is for EU member states to put in place measures to achieve GES in their marine waters by 2020.

Marine strategy part three: UK programme of measures (PDF) 


Bovine TB eradication strategy delivering results - defra

The comprehensive strategy to eradicate bovine TB in England is delivering results with more than half the country on track to be officially free of the disease by the end of this Parliament, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss confirmed today (17/12/15).

Badger control operations in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset were all successful in meeting their targets. The Chief Vet’s advice is that the results show that industry-led badger control can deliver the level of effectiveness required to be confident of achieving disease control benefits. As part of our strategy the government wants to see badger control over a wider number of areas next year.

Bovine TB is the greatest animal health threat to the UK. Dealing with the disease is costing the taxpayer £100million each year. Last year alone over 26,000 cattle had to be slaughtered in England to control the disease, causing devastation and distress for farmers and rural communities across large swathes of the country.

The Low Risk Area, covering over half of England, is on track to achieve officially TB-free status by the end of 2019. This would be the first time anywhere in England has enjoyed this status.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: " Our comprehensive strategy to eradicate bovine TB through tighter cattle controls, improved biosecurity and badger control is delivering results. We are on track to deliver TB freedom to more than half of the country by the end of this Parliament which will boost our trade prospects and is expected to deliver benefits worth millions of pounds to our dairy and beef industries. Badger control in the south west has been successful and we will enable it to take place over a wide number of areas next year. I am determined to deliver our strategy to tackle bovine TB and eradicate this devastating disease as soon as possible."

Access the control operation monitoring report. 


Badger Vaccine Deployment Project: lesson learned report - Animal and Plant Health Agency

This report considers lessons learnt from the Badger Vaccine Deployment Project, which was set up to develop practical knowledge of badger vaccination and to train vaccinators.

This report by the Animal and Plant Health Agency sets out the lessons learned from the Badger Vaccine Deployment Project (BVDP). It includes some generic information on starting and running a vaccination campaign and is likely to be of use to those planning to carry out badger vaccination in the future.

The BVDP, which started in in 2010, was designed to develop practical knowledge on the processes involved in vaccinating badgers and to facilitate training of lay vaccinators. It concluded in March 2015.

Badger Vaccine Deployment Project: lesson learned report (PDF) 


Latest survey shows declining pearl mussel numbers - Scottish Natural Heritage

Freshwater pearl mussels may now be extinct from several rivers in Scotland, a major new survey from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has confirmed.

Scotland has 114 rivers and burns that continue to support many of the world's most important remaining populations of freshwater pearl mussels. The species is one of the UK’s rarest fresh water molluscs and was first surveyed in 1998 with low numbers reported in many rivers at that time.

The new SNH report has found freshwater pearl mussels are absent in 11 Scottish rivers where they were previously recorded, and that pearl mussels appear to be declining nationwide. The prime culprits are illegal pearl fishing, low numbers of host fish, climate change, poor water quality, and river alterations.

Of the 114 rivers with pearl mussels, the majority continue to show signs that the pearl mussel populations are breeding. These are the sites where conservation efforts are actively being focussed.

SNH and PAW Scotland have created maps identifying crime hotspots and are working with Police Scotland to target illegal pearl fishers. The maps highlight 33 incidents of criminality from 2010 to 2014, and identify the areas in which most criminal activity has taken place. Police Scotland is now focusing its efforts on these areas.

Iain Sime, SNH’s freshwater and wetlands advisor, said:  “This is disappointing news about a species that is on the brink in parts of Scotland. Through the Pearls in Peril LIFE+ project we are working with partners including fishery trusts, SEPA and the forestry sector, to take action to improve conditions for pearl mussels in many rivers.  But to tackle illegal pearl fishing, continued monitoring of known hot spots is crucial to at least halt the rate of decline. We would ask anyone who sees anything suspicious to report it to Police Scotland immediately.” 

Summary of the pearl mussel report, can be accessed here.

View the pearl mussel crime hotspot maps here.


Better implementation not renegotiation needed for the Nature Directives - RSPB

The RSPB warmly welcomes today’s (16/12/15)announcement that the UK government does not wish to renegotiate the Nature Directives.

In a statement given to the EU Environmental Council meeting in Brussels, UK Environment Minister Rory Stewart said that it was better implementation of the directives that was needed rather than renegotiation.

Mr Stewart also said “Biodiversity is absolutely at the core of our society, of our economy, and of course is valuable in and of itself.”

Mike Clarke, Chief Executive of the RSPB said: “We welcome the minister’s commitment to work with others to improve the implementation of these vital laws, and acknowledge his comments regarding the challenges that lie ahead. The RSPB is committed to working with all four governments to improve the way the Nature Directives are put into practice for wildlife, people and businesses. A focus on implementation not only provides certainty for business but also allows us to get on with the job of saving nature.”


RSPB Scotland launches 20 year report on illegal killing of birds of prey

RSPB Scotland has published a detailed 20 year review of the illegal killing of birds of prey in Scotland, which confirms that 779 protected raptors were illegally killed between 1994 and 2014.

In total, 468 birds of prey were poisoned, 173 were shot and 76 were caught in illegal traps. There were also seven attempted shootings. The figures include 104 red kites, 37 golden eagles, 30 hen harriers, 16 goshawks and 10 white-tailed eagles.

RSPB Scotland’s specialist Investigations team has been meticulously documenting the illegal killing of birds of prey in Scotland for 20 years to provide a thorough public record of the scale, location and methods of wildlife crime. This effort, supported by an extensive body of peer reviewed science, has shown the severe impact of criminal activities on some of Scotland’s most iconic and vulnerable bird species.

The report deals only with incidents that have been confirmed as involving criminal activity, either by post mortem at a government laboratory or by reliable witnesses. The number of birds actually killed will therefore be much higher


Response from Scottish Land and Business  Moorland managers’ statement on RSPB birds of prey report

Following publication of a new report by RSPB Scotland on the illegal killing of birds of prey in Scotland, Tim Baynes, director of the Scottish Moorland Group, said: “The most striking fact about bird of prey deaths in Scotland is that they declined over the last 20 years and have fallen dramatically over the last five years in particular. This substantial drop in cases has been recorded in official statistics produced by the Scottish Government.

“Our condemnation of wildlife crime is unequivocal and we support the Scottish Government’s Environment Minister in the tough stance she has taken against those who indulge in this activity. There is a concerted effort by a number of organisations including Police Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates and the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association to eradicate the problem all together.


Bat Conservation Trust, bat careAn appeal from our Featured Charity: Bat Care Guidelines Crowdfunding 

The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) has launched its first crowdfunding campaign which aims to publish the new edition of the Bat Care Guidelines, a vital resource amongst bat carers. This is a great opportunity for our supporters to contribute to this publication. The crowdfunding page can be accessed HERE


Campaign halves dog fouling on farmland - Keep Scotland Beautiful

A dramatic pilot poster campaign urging dog walkers to clean up after their pets has more than halved the incidence of dog fouling on agricultural land. 

NFU Scotland, in partnership with Keep Scotland Beautiful, concluded the pilot study carried out on farms which have had persistent problems with dog fouling.  

Four sites on agricultural land - two in the Pentlands, one in Dumbarton and the other in Motherwell - were monitored by NFU Scotland and Keep Scotland Beautiful over a six week period during September and October to assess the impact of high profile posters, first used by Keep Britain Tidy, in the vicinity. 

The results showed an overall decrease of 52% in the incidents of dog fouling recorded over the duration of the project, across all four sites. 

Previous research has suggested that some dog owners act irresponsibly when they think they are not being watched. This was the main focus of the campaign. Two striking posters with hard-hitting messages and featuring ‘glow in the dark’ eyes were used to assess whether dog owner behaviour can be influenced. The significant reduction in dog fouling recorded over a six week period merits a more extensive study of long term impacts from such poster campaigns.


The Wildlife Trusts urge Government to drop the cull and focus on vaccination and securing badger BCG supplies

The Government today announced that it is suspending the sourcing of BCG vaccine for English badger vaccination schemes, that the 2015 badger culls were ‘successful in meeting their targets’ and confirmed it wants to see ‘badger control over a wider number of areas next year’, issuing new guidance to Natural England that significantly relaxes the current badger culling licence criteria

Paul Wilkinson, head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “We’re exasperated by today’s announcements and condemn any intention to roll out the badger culls, which have been found to be repeatedly flawed in their methodology, measures and objectives.  They are a resounding policy failure which should be halted immediately.” 

Culling badgers is likely to increase the bovine tuberculosis risk to cattle due to the perturbation effect, where disruption of otherwise stable badger social groups causes individuals to range beyond their usual territory and come into contact with neighbouring animals, increasing the risk of disease transmission.

Vaccination does not carry this risk and is the only approach that can actually reduce the prevalence of bovine tuberculosis in badgers. The Wildlife Trusts are therefore extremely concerned and disappointed that circumstances have required the suspension of badger vaccination programmes in England. Three Wildlife Trust projects currently receive Defra funding, via its Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (BEVS). There are eight other Wildlife Trust programmes in operation in England which look likely to be suspended too.  The Wildlife Trusts remain committed to the delivery of badger vaccination as one of a number of measures against TB in cattle and will resume vaccination as soon as possible.

Paul Wilkinson adds: “We are seeking a meeting with Defra to discuss the implications of the vaccine shortage for these projects.  It would seem that Government has failed to plan ahead for its badger vaccine requirements – and all of the hard work of hundreds of volunteers who have put in thousands of hours of time and effort to help farmers is now in jeopardy. We recognise that there are external difficulties in supply, and accept the need to prioritise global human health but Government ought to have planned ahead and taken action to secure critical supplies for programmes it had set in train – we are at a loss to understand why Defra has not put in place long-term supply arrangements."


Badger vaccinations have been suspended due to global lack of vaccines - Derbyshire Wildlife Trust 

We are very disappointed that circumstances have required the suspension of our successful badger vaccination programme in Edale and across Derbyshire.

However, we recognise that this suspension is a result of limited supply of the vaccine and the need to prioritise global human health. 

 Tawny Owl by John Harding/BTO

Tawny Owls missing from gardens - BTO

This is the time of the year when Tawny Owls can be frequently heard, and even seen, in gardens. This winter, however, fewer people have been reporting them to the British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) Garden BirdWatch.  Could this be a result of a poor breeding season?  Keep your eyes and ears out for these mysterious nocturnal visitors and help us keep track of their populations.  

Tawny Owl by John Harding/BTO

Tawny Owls are vocal towards the end of the year, as young disperse to find their own territories and pairs communicate with their classic ‘tu-whit, tu-whoo’ duet. So far this winter, however, this activity has been scarce with Tawny Owls only being reported by 3.6% of BTO Garden BirdWatchers, the second lowest figure for this time of year in a decade. 

These results come just weeks after Tawny Owl was added to the Amber list of UK Birds of Conservation Concern due to fears of a long-term decline. While it's hard to monitor nocturnal birds, there are indications that the number of breeding Tawny Owls in the UK has fallen by around a third in the last 25 years. Worryingly, the reasons for this trend are not fully understood.


Conservation and communities key to MPA plan - Scottish Government

Environment Secretary confirms protection for “valuable marine environment”.

Measures to conserve Scotland’s marine environment and protect important seabed features will be put in place, Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead confirmed today (18/12/15).
The Marine Protected Areas, (MPAs) will improve marine conservation, for example by protecting kelp and rocky reefs to reduce coastal erosion, and seagrass beds which capture and store carbon and provide nursery habitats.
The Scottish Government designated 30 MPAs last year and subsequently consulted on the associated management measures for a total of 20 sites. Following feedback from stakeholders, a further consultation was undertaken on the proposed measures in four of the larger MPAs to consider further representations. In response to that consultation, Mr Lochhead has today announced further changes to three specific sites - Small Isles, Wester Ross, and Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura – in response to further feedback from the fishing industry. Management measures for all other sites consulted on will remain unchanged.
The MPA network covers only four per cent of Scottish inshore waters, and it is estimated that the direct economic impact on the fishing industry will be very low - around 0.25 per cent of its combined earnings. To help minimise any local impact, Mr Lochhead has announced a three point plan including:

  • An environmental monitoring strategy, including opportunities for vessels to participate with funding of up to £500,000 over three years.
  • Resources for diversification will be an early priority for the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.
  • A commitment to undertake a robust economic study in a year’s time to assess the impact on coastal communities.


MPA fisheries decision signals new era for Scottish seas - Save Scottish Seas

Environmental organisations have today (18/12/15) welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement on managing fishing within Scotland’s network of marine protected areas (MPAs). The MPAs include some of the most vulnerable marine wildlife sites in Europe and some of the 30 areas designated in the summer of 2014 to protect a range of habitats and species including flameshell beds and the common skate. However, until now the areas have been at risk of potentially irreversible damage from some fishing activities. The new proposals for fisheries management in the MPAs will help move the most damaging activities away from sensitive habitats.

Calum Duncan, Convenor of Scottish Environment LINK’s Marine Taskforce and Head of Conservation Scotland for Marine Conservation Society said: “Marine protected areas are a vital tool for protecting and restoring the health of our seas. These management proposals for inshore MPAs and SACs are the result of discussions we have been engaged in for over five years. We welcome the proposals as the first step toward protecting many important areas, enabling ecological recovery and helping to secure healthier Scottish seas for future generations, although concerns remain about some places where bottom-towed fishing will still be permitted.  These nature conservation measures must also be part of a broader and more progressive approach to spatial management of fisheries throughout our seas. We now need to continue working with all stakeholders to ensure MPAs fulfil their promise of recovering Scotland’s sea life, both for its intrinsic value and for broader public benefit.”


SNH launches pollinator public consultation

SNH today (21/12/15) launches a public consultation on a strategy to protect pollinating insects in Scotland.

The strategy sets out the current situation for Scotland’s pollinators, the reasons why action is needed, and the steps needed for their conservation. The strategy will help public bodies, NGOs and members of the public to work together to conserve pollinator species.

There are growing concerns that environmental pressures are leading to declines in the number, diversity and geographic range of pollinators. Habitat loss, disease, pesticide use and climate change all possibly contribute to decreased numbers.

Pollination is essential for Scotland’s beautiful natural areas and it also provides economic benefits for many agricultural crops.

Scotland’s pollinators include the honey bee, bumble bees, solitary bees, wasps, hoverflies, other flies, beetles, butterflies and moths. Pollination services in the UK have an estimated market value benefit of £430 million, of which at least £43 million is in Scotland.

More information on the SNH consultation here.

The consultation will end on 14 March 2016.  


From Russia with swans: woman’s first ever paramotor ‘migration’ - Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust

A champion sportswoman and conservationist will fly 4,500 miles from the Russian Arctic to Britain next autumn, using just a parachute wing and strapped to a small propeller engine, in the first ever attempt to follow Bewick’s swans on their annual migration.

Bewick’s swans (c) James Lees WWTBewick’s swans (c) James Lees WWT

The expedition will uncover new science about the Bewick’s swans, whose numbers have halved in the last 20 years, and unite people from different cultures to try to reverse the decline.

Sacha Dench, who works for the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) and is a former British and Australian free-diving champion, will follow the swans in her paramotor as winter drives them off their breeding grounds. She will film and make live broadcasts along the way.

Her first challenge will be to cross the Russian tundra, one of the most wild and remote places on earth. Over ten weeks she will cross 11 countries, become the first woman ever to paramotor across the Channel, and fly along the River Thames through central London.

She will face many of the same challenges as the swans, from extreme weather and polar bears to a hostile landscape of pylons and tall buildings, as well as struggling to find safe places to land, rest and refuel.


And finally for this year something suitably Christmassy!

Festively-dressed spider doing well in new home - RSPB

Ladybird spider (image: Ian Hughes / RSPB)Ladybird spider (image: Ian Hughes /RSPB)

One of the UK's rarest spiders is finding its new home in Dorset to its liking according to a new survey.

This arachnid-Santa-wannabe, otherwise known as the ladybird spider – so-called because of the males’ bright red body covered in black spots, and black and white legs – was on the brink of extinction in the mid 1980s when a single colony of just 7 individuals was left in the UK. Since then conservationists have been helping it to spread further afield.

In 2011, it was released into one of the most diverse insect and spider habitats in the country, the RSPB’s Arne reserve in Dorset. Surveys carried out this year show that the spiders are doing well and are now expanding outside of the original release areas.

Toby Branston, RSPB Dorset Reserve Ecology Manager said: “It’s great to see this incredible little spider doing well in its new home. The hard work has started to pay off. Searches this year have found five new webs away from the release sites as well as others in their original ‘bottle-homes’. A great sign that the spiders are feeling settled here at Arne.” 


Scientific papers

Allen, K. A. Denelle, P. Sánchez Ruiz, F. M., Santana, V. M. & Marrs, R. H. (2015) Prescribed moorland burning meets good practice guidelines: A monitoring case study using aerial photography in the Peak District, UK. Ecological Indicators doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.11.030


Cardosoa, R. S., Barbozaa, C. A. M., Skinnera, V. B. & Cabrinia T. M. B. (2015)  Crustaceans as ecological indicators of metropolitan sandy beaches health. Ecological Indicators doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.11.039


Mathers, K. L., Chadd, R. P., Extence, C. A., Rice, S. P. & Wood, P. J. (2015) The implications of an invasive species on the reliability of macroinvertebrate biomonitoring tools used in freshwater ecological assessments. Ecological Indicators. doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.11.051


Greenwood, O., Mossman, H. L., Suggitt, A. J., Curtis, R. J. & Maclean, I. M. D (2015) Using in situ management to conserve biodiversity under climate change. Journal of Applied Ecology DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12602 


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