July 2016: The EU vote and its potential effect on British wildlife

As we’re all now aware, the British public have voted to leave the EU.  I don’t want to add to the political debate here, but at the same time, for someone that blogs about wildlife I think I need to at least acknowledge the potential effect on British Wildlife, of this radical decision. The good news I guess is that in the short term, not a lot will change with respect to the level of protection endangered species receive in the UK. All the EU directives are enacted in UK law and therefore the removal of the UK from the EU won’t change these UK laws, at least not overnight. In  order to change these laws there would need to be new legislation drafted and passed through the parliament.

However, it just so happens that the Law Commission has just carried out a review of the current UK wildlife legislation and published it findings in the form of a draft Bill in November last year . I was invited to speak at The Westminster Briefing on this very subject in May and at the time, although the Brexit elephant was sitting comfortably in the corner, the general feeling among many of my peers was one of positivity. In its current format the draft Bill recommends a strengthening of the current legislation as well as some long overdue rationalisation, and updating of Schedules (lists) of protected species. However, I think we should be aware that the current format may well not be anything like what is eventually passed in the end, and a debate and review of the Bill in the current non-EU, red tape burning atmosphere could, and I underline could, result in an eventual weakening in the legal protection for wildlife in the UK. Challenging times are certainly ahead. I think I speak for many environmentalists when I say that this is the time to put away the hankies and accept the new order and to work even harder than normal to maximise the opportunities for wildlife that this hiatus presents. Out of this change could come an enormous number of positive things (OK – if I’m honest I am humming the tune from the end of the film Life of Brian – while writing this!).

Britain’s Birds

On a more positive and uplifting note, I can now reveal that Biocensus is incredibly proud to announce that we are officially a production partner with Princeton University Press, WildGuides and RSPB in the release of the forthcoming bird book “Britain’s Birds”. It is the first book ever to present images of all British species in all plumages (immature and both sexes if relevant) and it has been a mammoth undertaking by the authors.

Britain's Birds

I have been closely involved in the production and wrote the legislation section for the authors. I’ve even got a photo in the book (taken whilst sitting in a Gin bar in Majorca – that’s what I call fieldwork!). The book will be officially launched at the annual bird fair at Rutland Water 19th -21st of August but there is a chance to take advantage of the pre-publication offer  – order now for £13.99.

Storm Petrels on Priest Island

A few weeks ago was my annual trip to Priest Island where I ring storm petrels. A lot of them. As in a thousand! We do this every year in order to enable us and the RSPB to monitor the population of these enigmatic little birds. This year the weather was kind and we caught just over 1000.  One of these birds was first ringed, as an adult bird on Shetland in 1988. This makes it at least 28 years old!! Quite incredible for a bird that weighs about 25 grams. The good news is that according to our analysis the population on Priest seems to be on the increase. This is after many years of apparent decline.


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