March, 2017

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Martin Harper's blog

I’ve been the RSPB’s Conservation Director since May 2011. As I settle into the job, I’ll be blogging on all the big conservation topics and providing an inside view of our conservation projects. I hope you enjoy reading it and feel inspired to join in t
  • Good news for a Friday: Argentina approves measures to save seabirds

    This has not been a good week.  I was shocked and angered by events in Westminster and our thoughts are with all those affected by the act of terror.  The attack took place on the day that we were due to celebrate the work of 43 MPs - our species champions - who have been prepared to use their political voices for threatened species.  

    We need democratically elected politicians to speak out and we are always happy to work with those keen to make a difference.  And when they do, it's great to be able, as we would have done on Wednesday night, to acknowledge their contribution and applaud their good work.

    This week, politicians on the other side of the world have stepped up for nature. The Argentinian Government approved the use of measures to prevent seabird bycatch deaths: the use of bird-scaring lines will become a compulsory mitigation measure in the trawl fishery to protect seabirds. It will be a voluntary measure until May 1, 2018 and mandatory from that date.  It is the latest in a long line of successes from BirdLife International's Global Marine Programme (hosted by the RSPB) and its Albatross Task Force

    Black-browed albatross (credit: Stephanie Winnard)

    Studies estimate that between 9,000 and 18,000 black-browed albatross Thalassarche melanophrys are killed every year, and this is only taking into account those that are killed by Argentine hake trawlers.

    Through the Albatross Task Force, BirdLife Partner, Aves Argentinas has been working with fishermen to recognise and identify the seabird species they encounter every day: black-browed albatross, Cape petrel, southern giant petrel, shy albatross, southern royal albatross and, the king of the seas, the wandering albatross, all inhabit these icy waters.

    Over the last few months, the Argentinean team members of the Albatross Task Force, with the support of many organisations including the National Fisheries Secretariat, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, the National Institute for Research and Fisheries Development (INIDEP), the University of Mar del Plata (IIMyC-CONICET) and Fundación Vida Silvestre developed the draft resolution for the use of bird-scaring lines on trawlers, which was approved unanimously last week by the members of the Federal Fisheries Council.

    Many congratulations to all involved including those who ultimately made the decision that will save the lives of thousands of seabirds. 

  • Good news for a Friday: Birdfair 2016 raises £350,000 for conservation

    This morning at Rutland Water, Tim Appleton (one of the co-founders of Birdfair) revealed that £350,000 had been raised from last year's event.  This will support the BirdLife International partnership work for Important Bird Areas in Africa including Tsitongambarika Forest in Madagascar - home to the scaly ground roller which featured in last year's art work.

    This means that since 1989, Birdfair (which is jointly organised by the Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust and the RSPB) has raised £4,246,152 for conservation projects around the world - a remarkable achievement by the organisers, the sponsors, exhibitors and all those who attend the festival.

    This year, funds raised will contribute to the restoration of islands in French Polynesia including Rapa Iti home to internationally important populations of seabirds and the endangered Rapa fruit dove, which is the star of this year's wonderful artwork from Carry Akroyd.

    If you have never been, I urge you to go to Rutland on 18-20 August.  

  • Illegal bird killing on Cyprus: statistics that still have the power to shock

    It was a gorgeous early spring day at the Lodge yesterday - birds in full song and butterflies finding their way in the sunshine.  It was a good time to host a director from one of BirdLife's partners in the Mediterranean.  Martin Hellicar, from BirdLife Cyprus, was over to help promote our joint report on the scale of illegal bird killing in Cyprus.

    We have estimated that over 800,000 birds were killed on a British military base in Cyprus last year - representing a 183% increase since our joint illegal-killing monitoring programme began in 2002.  The dead birds are sold via the black market to restaurants in the Republic of Cyprus for diners to eat (in a dish called ambelopoulia), with criminal gangs earning millions of pounds from this illegal activity.  

    Trapped blackcap

    While the story of bird killing in the Med is well known, these statistics and the video footage of illegal activity (taken on land in the Cyprus Republic) that our investigations team have obtained still have the power to shock.

    We are used to distressing statistics about environmental losses. For example, I often cite the fact that there are 421 million fewer birds today than there were 30 years ago. I know that these statistics can sometimes be off-putting - some want to block out bad news or are just inured to them.

    But it is so important that we continue to present the evidence to the relevant authorities and to the public as that can be a stimulus for action.  The military base authority on Cyprus had stepped up and removed non-native acacia trees (used to lure in birds to be killed) on Ministry of Defence land.  Unfortunately, operations were forced to be abandoned last year due to protests from the hunters.  

    BirdLife Cyprus and the RSPB will continue to do whatever we can to change attitudes to stop the demand for ambelopoulia in the Cyprus Republic while also encouraging the UK Government to do more to stop the supply of dead birds.  We need the Ministry of Defence to provide enforcement support to help the military base authorities respond to the trappers and safely remove the remaining 90 acres of acacia so that they can no longer be used to kill hundreds of thousands more birds.

    So please read the report, watch the video of the illegal activity on land in the Cyprus Republic, remind yourself that this sort of activity is also happening now on a British territory and then allow yourself to be shocked once again.  Shock can lead to anger and anger can be a good motivator for action.