Hundreds of seabirds have been washed up along the south coast of England between Dorset and Cornwall, covered in a waxy, glue-like substance.
The RSPB and RSPCA have launched a rescue operation today after more than 100 birds, mainly guillemots, were washed ashore. Many were found at Chesil Cove near Weymouth, but others are appearing up to 200 miles away in Cornwall, some of them already dead.
The RSPCA said the birds were “not responding well” to the cleaning techniques, normally used to remove oil. Dorset Wildlife Trust has urged people not to attempt to rescue any washed up birds but to alert the RSPCA.
Avaaz has launched an online petition calling on the EU to immediately ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.
The global advocacy organisation says: “Quietly, globally, billions of bees are dying, threatening our crops and food. But in 48 hours the European Union could move to ban the most poisonous pesticides, and pave the way to a global ban that would save bees from extinction.
“Four EU countries have begun banning these poisons, and some bee populations are already recovering. Days ago the official European food safety watchdog stated for the first time that certain pesticides are fatally harming bees.
“Now legal experts and European politicians are calling for an immediate ban. But, Bayer and other giant pesticide producers are lobbying hard to keep them on the market. If we build a huge swarm of public outrage now, we can push the European Commission to put our health and our environment before the profit of a few.
“We know our voices count! Last year, our 1.2 million strong petition forced US authorities to open a formal consultation on pesticides – now if we reach 2 million, we can persuade the EU to get rid of these crazy poisons and pave the way for a ban worldwide.
“Sign the urgent petition and share this with everyone – Avaaz and leading MEPs will deliver our message ahead of this week’s key meeting in Brussels.” Over 2 million have already signed the petition, Avaaz now hope to get 2.5 million.
Mistle thrushes are disappearing from UK gardens says the RSPB. The charity’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch survey – back this weekend – shows that mistle thrushes are now seen in fewer than half the number of gardens they were seen in ten years ago.
People are being urged to take part in the 34th annual Big Garden Birdwatch, on 26-27 January, to keep vital information about these, and other garden birds, coming. RSPB Conservation Director, Martin Harper, says: “Everyone that has ever taken part in Big Garden Birdwatch has helped to make us aware of huge changes in the populations of birds like house sparrows, starlings and song thrushes, leading us to do more work on the decline of these familiar birds.
“Mistle thrushes are already on the amber-list of conservation concern and are closely related to the threatened song thrush. The rate of decline we’ve seen throughout Big Garden Birdwatch suggests these species are in need of help.”
Almost 600,000 people across the UK, including 90,000 pupils and teachers at schools, took part in the Birdwatch last year counting more than 9 million birds between them. Everyone can join in by spending just one hour at any time over Big Garden Birdwatch weekend noting the highest number of each bird species seen in their gardens or local park at any one time then submitting the results to the RSPB.
Good news! Government Ministers have confirmed that the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) will be fully funded in 2013.
The Home Office and Defra have committed £136,000 each for the next financial year, securing the future of the unit. The current funding arrangement was due to run out at the end of March. No decisions have been taken for funding the unit beyond 31 March 2014.
NWCU is at the forefront of the UK’s fight against the growing illegal wildlife trade. Through effective intelligence-led enforcement, it targets key criminals engaged in serious and organised crime.
Announcing the funding, Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: “Wildlife crime is a very serious issue with organised gangs using the proceeds from illegally traded items like rhino horn to fuel other illegal activities. It’s right that a specialist unit supports the police in bringing these people to trial.”
The unit has been instrumental in combating the illegal trade in rhino horn, which now has a blackmarket value in Asia as high as gold.
RSPB Conservation Director, Martin Harper, welcomed the announcement, saying: “The continued support for the unit is great news. The illegal killing of birds of prey is threatening the security of some species, with the hen harrier facing imminent extinction in England as a nesting species. The unit is a vital part of the UK’s fight against wildlife crime, and we’re relieved these crime fighters have been given a further year to provide the protection our wildlife deserves.”
The world’s most widely used insecticide has been officially labelled an “unacceptable” danger to bees feeding on flowering crops.
Bees and other pollinators are critical to one-third of all food but two major studies last year implicated neonicotinoid pesticides in the decline in the insects. Last April, the European Commission demanded a re-examination of the risks posed by the chemicals.
Scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded on Wednesday that it is not acceptable to use three neonicotinoid insecticides on crops attractive to honey bees – including oilseed rape which is widely grown in the UK. They also found huge gaps in safety information and a lack of testing for the impact of the chemicals on other pollinating insects.
Friends of the Earth believe this is a major turning point in the battle to save our bees. The charity’s Executive Director, Andy Atkins, said: “The clear link between neonicotinoid pesticides and declining bee health must sting the Government into action. Ministers must urgently remove these dangerous chemicals from sale, overhaul inadequate pesticide safety tests and ensure farmers have access to safe, effective alternatives.”
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “This research will be examined by the independent Advisory Committee on Pesticides and their advice will be considered by ministers. If it is concluded that restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids are necessary, they will be brought in.”
A new 25-year partnership project that aims to protect internationally important seabird populations on the Isles of Scilly has been given the green light.
The islands are home to breeding populations of 14 species and about 20,000 birds, including storm petrels, Manx shearwaters and puffins. The local seabird population has declined by almost 25% in the past 30 years, mainly because eggs and chicks have been preyed upon by rats.
Up until now, rodent control work has been confined to Scilly’s uninhabited islands and has left them rat-free, although work is regularly required to maintain this status. The project, which involves the RSPB, Natural England and the Duchy of Cornwall together with the islands’ Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty partnership, Wildlife Trust and Bird Group, aims to make two of Scilly’s inhabited islands rat-free over the next 25 years.
Most of the scheme’s £900,000 financial backing is coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund and, because of Scilly’s Special Protected Area status, from the European Union’s LIFE budget too.
Paul St Pierre, RSPB Conservation Officer, said: “As well as seeking to bolster the population of seabirds, we want to involve more people in the celebration, enjoyment and protection of the islands’ seabird heritage. We want to help these islands make more of their seabird heritage and to strengthen its image as a seabird-friendly destination for an ever wider audience.”
A quick update on the Bee Cause campaign. A total of 125 MPs showed their support for halting bee decline by posing with a giant cuddly bee and sign saying ‘Britain needs its bees’ at the House of Commons on Tuesday.
Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party politicians all backed the Friends of the Earth campaign, including the Tory MP for Lichfield, Michael Fabricant (below). They learnt that the amount of honey produced by UK bees fell by 72% in 2012 compared with the previous year.
The campaign is calling for a National Bee Action Plan to tackle the major threats facing British bees and you can give your support by signing an online petition.
Friends of the Earth’s Nature Campaigner, Paul de Zylva, said: “It’s a very welcome first step to see so many MPs recognise the importance of bees to our farmers, food prices and countryside. But they must now act urgently to halt bee decline. The effect of letting bees go the same way as ash trees would be catastrophic.”