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Looking after the forests and the fishes Pt3

Continuing the story of todays vote by the EU Fisheries Committee on reform of the Common Fisheries Policy to end discard and prevent overfishing I’ve just received email notification that the vote was  in favour of reform by 13 votes to 10 with 2 abstentions!

Wey hey!! It just goes to show that common sense can ultimately prevail. This is what the press release from the EU had to say:

Stop overfishing: Fisheries Committee approves major reform for “Blue Europe”

PECH Fisheries − 18-12-2012 – 17:28

The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) needs radical reform to cut fishing to sustainable stock levels, end discards, and use better long-term planning based on reliable scientific data, said Fisheries Committee MEPs on Tuesday. Overfishing is widely seen as the worst failure of the current CFP, dating from 2002. The new one is to take effect in 2014.

European Commission figures suggest 80% of Mediterranean stocks and 47% of Atlantic stocks are overfished. The proposal voted in the Fisheries Committee contains clear and strong measures to tackle this problem.

“I am very relieved that we have now cleared this difficult hurdle. I expect that the plenary will confirm our vote in February. After that we will have a strong backing to start negotiations with the Council in order to get the reform signed and sealed” said Ulrike Rodust (S&D, DE), Parliament’s rapporteur on the fisheries reform..

Stop overfishing by ending discards…

Discards – fish thrown back, usually because they are of unwanted species or size – account for almost a quarter of total EU catches. Most of the discarded species die. To end this wasteful practice, MEPs voted to oblige fishing vessels to land all catches in accordance with a timeframe setting specific dates for different fisheries, starting from 2014.

Landed catches of fish that are undersized, for example, would be restricted to uses other than human consumption. Member States must make sure fishing vessels comply with the discard ban.

…and respect maximum sustainable yield

The maximum sustainable yield (MSY) is defined as the largest catch that can be safely taken year after year and which maintains the fish population size at maximum productivity. In today’s vote, MEPs sought to ensure that fish stocks will recover, by 2020 at the latest, to above levels that are capable of producing the MSY, and thereafter to  maintain all recovered stocks at these levels. Ultimately this means more fish, better catches and, as a consequence, more jobs in the fishing industry.

Long-term planning instead of yearly quota-haggling

To achieve sustainability in fisheries, multi-annual fish stock management plans are now established as a priority. A longer term approach should bring greater predictability, and the fishing industry will be able to invest better and plan ahead. Multi-annual plans will be based on more reliable and accurate scientific data, which EU member states will be obliged to collect and make available.

Next steps

The draft resolution on the Common Fisheries Policy was approved with 13 votes in favour, 10 against and 2 abstentions, and should be put to a plenary vote in February.

And other piece of good news for the fishes was reported on the BBC website:

This is an awesome acheivement and one I hope guarantees the survival of all the shark species which live in that area.

Looking after the forests and the fishes Pt2

Following on from the previous post about the vote for reform to the EU Common Fisheries Policy tomorrow, I emailed the seven MEP’s that were listed on Chris Davies (Lib Dem MEP) website as swinging voters:

Struan Stevenson (Con, sits in ECR European Parliament Group, UK)
Marek Grobarczyk (Law and Justice, sits in ECR, Poland)
Nigel Farage (UKIP, sits in EFD, UK)
Dolores Garcia-Hierro Caraballo (Socialist, sits in S&D, Spain)
Diane Dodds (DUP, non-attached, UK)
Werner Kuhn (Christian Democrats, sits in EPP, Germany)
Jaroslaw Walesa (Civic Platform, sits in EPP, Poland)

And the other three UK MEP’s who sit on the Fisheries Committee:

Ian Hudghton (SNP)
Julie Girling (Con)
George Lyon (Lib Dem)

So far the only one who has replied is Struan Stevenson and his assistant assured me that he will be voting for the reforms and that the vote can be followed tomorrow here on the European Parliaments website.

Fingers crossed that the common good prevails over commercial interests!

The indomitable coot – addendum: yesterday I posted about how aggresive coots can and this fantastic picture from Ian Butler demonstrates the point quite splendidly… I imagine the heron got a bit of a shellacking when it touched down!

Ian Butler Photography

I flushed this heron whilst walking around the reserve and unfortunately for the heron it flew straight towards a coot nest.  The adult coots then proceeded to launch a full scale attack on the heron for being too close to the nest.  The heron then had to change direction quickly, which ultimately lead to the heron slowing down and landing about a foot away from the coots nest, which lead the coots to become even more aggresive because of this.  In the end the heron flew past me instead of the coots which in my opinion was the safest option in the first place! Whether the heron thought that the coots would be more concerned about me and tried to take one of the coot chicks or whether it was just an honest mistake I dont know.  It happened extremely quickly and this is the one of the images of the pair of…

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Blog plug

I just found these two blogs which I think are really good and well worth a look:

This one caught my attention because of the adders, a creature I’ve never seen in the wild yet but I’m on a mission to find them.

And this one has lots of high quality photographs of British moths:

Summer songbirds mainly, especially linnet

The summer solstice was a couple of weeks ago, the weather is warm and sunny and the evenings are light until after 10pm. For the last week I’ve been heading out across the fields in all hours of daylight and the wildlife has changed significantly. Until a few weeks ago there was alot of bird activity around the nests and I could watch whitethroat and blackcap in the same place for several weeks before that.

Common whitethroat about to head for the nest

The birds are still around but they have dispersed and a tad more legwork is required to see the same species I was seeing 2-3 weeks ago. But now, the first broods of the next generation have all fledged and while my garden has played host to families of starling, great tit, and goldfinch – the fledglings easily distinguished from the adults by their lack of a crimson face – further afield, the hedgerows are thronged with linnet, whitethroat, reed bunting, corn bunting and yellowhammer.

An adult goldfinch and two fledglings on the niger seed feeder in my garden. The speckled brown and lack of a red face makes the youngsters easy to identify.

Another finch of which there are many adults and fledglings in the countryside are linnet. Linnet are one of my favourite birds for several reasons: they are delightful to look at with their cerise breast patches, they have a lovely song as they fly overhead and as long as I don’t do anything daft they will often sit tight and let me get really close to photograph them.

A cock linnet, underlit by the late evening sun, showing several diagnostic freatures including the cerise breast, grey head and pale grey grey cheekspot and the crimson spot on the forehead

Rather interestingly the taxonomic nomenclature is Carduelis cannabina, which approximately translates from the Latin as the ‘cannabis finch’! The linnets diet consists of small seeds so I imagine the name derives from the days when hemp was grown to make rope and they were seen in numbers feeding on the seeds.

There is a field of oil seed rape on the edge of Histon which I had always imagined to be devoid of wildlife but in the last few weeks families of linnet, reed bunting, greenfinch and whitethroat are regularly perched on top of the rape plants.

Greenfinch male in the middle of the rape field

The rape seed pods are full of small black seeds and if you squeeze one seed between your fingers there’s enough oil in it to make the ends of your thumb and forefinger really greasy, so it’s easy to see why rape is a lucrative crop and why it is a good energy source for songbirds.

Female linnet perched on top of a hawthorn tree at the edge of the rape field, she doesn’t have the cerise breast patches of the male, but lovely colours none the less

Linnet are migrant and resident breeders and passage and winter visitors. In the winter they can be seen in flocks of several hundred over farmland and often mingle with other finches. There conservation status is red due to population decline over the last forty years even though the European population numbers between 10 and 30 million pairs! Despite the overall numbers, along with a multitude of other bird species they are the victims of habitat destruction and the systemic use of herbicides which kill off their food supplies.

Cock linnet perched on top of an apple tree also on the edge of the rape field…

… and another one sitting on power lines. Look at the colour of that breast – they’re beautiful birds!

So if you can’t think of anything else to do this weekend and you feel like some gentle excercise and peace and quiet take a walk in the countryside and keep your eyes open for all the songbirds.

Many species of butterfly including large and small white, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, ringlet and small skippers were flapping lazily around the hedges on Guns Lane this morning, basking in the warm sunshine and I saw the first gatekeepers of the year today too:

A gatekeeper probing for nectar in ragwort flowers

All in all, it’s well worth a trip to the countryside armed with a pair of binoculars!

Autumn is on the way

 As we move from summer to autumn there are plenty of changes to be seen in the gardens and countryside. The high pressure system hovering over us is giving us some lovely warm end-of-summer weather with chilly, misty  mornings and the evenings closing in so it’s getting dark around 8pm.  The harvest is almost in and the wildlife is showing signs that the year is advancing. My niger seed feeder is constantly abuzz with activity from families of goldfinches, the fledglings still without their crimson faces. Many species of butterfly including the common blue, meadow brown, gatekeeper and brown argus have all but disappeared leaving mainly whites to be seen fluttering round ragwort flowers in the fields and buddleia bushes closer to home.

Goldfinch family feeding on niger seed in my garden

A host of other garden birds including blue tit, great tit, dunnock, collared dove, wood pigeon, greenfinch and chaffinch are regularly visiting the feeders and in the wake of the reported outbreak of the Trichomonas parasite, which has been reported to be killing large numbers of greenfinch and chaffinch, it is good to see regular appearance of healthy individuals of both species in the garden. 

Greenfinch male on my apple tree

An early morning walk along the street can also be a rewarding experience just now. Hedgerows topped with blackberries are festooned with spider webs laden with dew and illuminated by the low early morning sunshine; architectural wonders which impress not only by their complexity but by the sheer number of them too. Numerous swallows are swooping over the fields feeding up on insects prior to their migration to sub-Saharan Africa. It’s always a source of wonder to me how such a tiny creature survives such a huge journey at such a young age, only to repeat it in reverse in six months time. Dragonflies and damselflies of various types are to be seen chasing, hawking and darting over fields and gardens, species such as migrant hawker and the common darter and common blue damselfly.   

Common blue damselfly

Migrant hawker dragonfly, female – the male is blue

I will keep watching and photographing the changes as we progress through autumn and post the most interesting ones here.