10th November 2013
Successful campaign to modify EU Fisheries Policy
Earler on this year I posted about a campaign for the European Union to introduce amendments to the Commun Fisheries Policy. This campaign was successful and was followed up recently with another campaign to ensure EU funds were not allocated to building a new European fishing fleet.
I just received this email from the WWF who were one of the organisations orchestrating these campaigns (along with another one to prevent oil extraction from the Sea of Okhotsk north of Japan which would have endangered ther last population of western grey whales):
I believe these organised on line campaigns are a real way for normal people to make their voices heard and they are delivering tangible results!
This is very good news indeed!
30th May 2011
Proposed eradication of magpies by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust in order to protect songbirds
During yesterdays edition of Countryfile on BBC1, John Craven produced a piece on why certain species of songbird have dramatically diminshed in numbers over the last 40-50 years. Part of this piece was an interview with Dr Chris Stoate of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) in which he attempts to justify their planned eradication of magpies at a number of secret sites across the country in order to determine the effect on songbird populations. If you have read these pages previously you will no doubt have gleaned that wanton destruction of any wildlife under any pretext is something I abhor.
In the interview Dr Stoate states that research undertaken by GWCT over a number of years has suggested that predator numbers adversely affect nesting success and breeding numbers of songbirds.
I have a problem with this type of on a number of levels:
There is a lack of real evidence to support the overall assertion that magpies, or other avian or mammal predators, may be to blame for songbird decline, and predator/prey relationships are complicated and cannot be unabiguously analysed by simply cordoning off a site, eradicating the predators and counting the birds. Dr Stoate himself says in the interview he doesn’t know if killing magpies will affect songbird numbers despite invoking research data generated by his own organisation indicating that it will. As part of the same piece, representatives of Animal Aid and the RSPB both state there is no scientific evidence to support this, and my own understanding of biological systems is that prevalence of prey species determine numbers of predators. Not the other way round.
Larsen traps are used to trap the magpies and Dr Stoate is questioned by John Craven about the cruelty involved. In such a trap a ‘bait bird’ is encaged in one compartment of the trap which lures other individuals into adjacent compartments from which they are removed and killed. I find that utterly disgusting. Dr Stoate however argues that there is no cruelty inflicted on the bait bird as it is fed, watered and sheltered, and it must be happy or it would be unable to do its job. The bait bird is of course another magpie, and the object of the excercise is to kill magpies… . So I suspect the bait bird may hold other views.
There are conflicting data from similar studies in the scientific literature so it seems obvious that the results will depend heavily on study design parameters including selection of prey species, predator species, location and various other factors. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the result of the study can to a large degree be engineered and results need to be considered in context alongside the results from as many similar studies as posssible. It seems to me that GWCT are simply attempting to generate a pseudo-scientific justification for eliminating all predator species in order to maximise numbers oof prey species for their members to shoot.
However, the main objection I have to this absurd ‘study’ is that it completely avoids the real issue of why songbirds are declining in favour of a half-baked notion propagated by an organisation with a strong vested interest. As such, it is incapable of being objective, and therefore, scientific. The real reason for songbird decline is of course the destruction of the countryside by irresponsible farming methods. I live adjacent to land which is farmed in a wildlife friendly fashion in an area where fox, stoat, magpie, rook, carrion crow, jay, little owl and sparrowhawk are all prevalent and it is home to a large number of game birds including pheasant, partridge, snipe and woodcock, and songbirds including skylark, corn bunting, reed bunting, yellowhammer, house sparrow, blackcap, common whitethroat and many others.
Obviously anecdotal evidence is not scientific, but it doesn’t seem a coincidence to me that a combination of sensitive farming methods and a reasonable amount of relatively undisturbed habitat has produced an oasis for large numbers of threatened birds.
If, like me, you are unhappy with the GWCT approach to countryside management please email them at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ and voice your concern or request more information. And please feed back to me any interesting responses.
If John Craven ever reads this page I hope he gets in touch as I would very much like to show him how all birds can coexist with no culling of predators in a region where the birds fend entirely for themselves. The fields here are alive with birdsong!
25th March 2011
Update: Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo
Some very good news! It was reported a few days ago in the Financial Times that an an open letter to conservation groups from the Environment Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr Jose Endundo, has announced that oil prospecting by two British listed oil companies, SOCO International and Dominion Petroleum, is suspended because the environmental impact assessment submitted by SOCO was deemed to be inadequate.
According to Reuters news agency:
“We have rejected the recommendations of an environmental impact assessment conducted by the oil company, Soco, which we consider premature, superficial and does not conform to the standards we expect,” the minister said in the letter.
It seems the government of DRC is carrying out its own strategic environmental assessment which is due to report in 2012 so fingers crossed the DRC decide on a longer term embargo on mineral exploration ans exploitation in this unique part of the world