Earlier News
Dated Item
24/03/2014 Government response to EAC inquiry report
The House of Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee (EAC) introduced their report on Sustainability in the UK’s Overseas Territories at a workshop at Gibraltar House on the 16th January (see Forum News 42 for summaries and the Announcement page for background).
Today, the EAC has published on their website the UK Government’s response to the report. Links to the response (in both html and PDF formats) and to both volumes of the original report (I - Report and transcripts of oral evidence and II – written submissions) are available here.
27/11/2013 Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council communiqué
London, 26 November 2013
On their agenda for discussions were eight priority issues: economic diversification, links with the wider world, green energy and environment, international financial services regulation, governance, security, self-determination and the next steps. The full communiqué is available here
11/08/2013 Discounts on visits to South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands, Falkland Islands and Antarctica
Oceanwide Expeditions are offering discounts on some places on a range of voyages in the 2013-14 season involving combinations of Falkland Islands, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands, South Orkney Islands, South Shetland Islands and Antarctica.

Further details from www.oceanwide-expeditions.com. Please mention UKOTCF when enquiring.

19/06/2013 Darwin Plus launches new call for projects in UKOTs
The UK Government has announced a new call for projects in the UKOTs.

Darwin Plus is co-funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development and is operated by Defra through the Darwin Initiative.

New guidance notes and forms for all schemes are available on the Darwin website here.

Proposals should be submitted by Monday 23 September 2013

20/05/2013 Bermuda Ombudsman reports on legal status of Charters
The Bermuda Ombudsman has published a report which looks at the legal status of the Environment Charters. For background see below Ombudsman finds SDO for Tuckers Point “unlawful” referring to Environmental Charter and Bermuda's Ombudsman reacts to Government's response.

In her report, Ms Brock states that by signing the Environment Charters in 2001, Bermuda is legally obliged to conduct Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), with public consultation, prior to approving developments that are likely to have an adverse impact on the environment. Furthermore, Bermuda's obligations are also reinforced by: "other commitments made under the UK Environment Charter and Rio Declaration, responsibilities imposed by the Convention on Biological Diversity, common law doctrine of legitimate expectation, recent caselaw and international best practices."

The full report can be downloaded here.

11/02/2013 **Discounts on visits to South Georgia and Antarctica.**
Oceanwide Expeditions are offering discounts between 50% and 30% on some places on their late March voyage to South Georgia and their late March Antarctic whale-watching trip.

Further details from www.oceanwide-expeditions.com. Please mention UKOTCF when enquiring.

14/01/2013 Responses to EAC inquiry published
The UK Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee has today published the submissions to its inquiry on sustainability in the UK Overseas Territories (see article below 27th Sept 2012 Environment Audit Committee launches inquiry into sustainability in UKOTs).

The full list of submissions is available at:www.publications.parliament.uk

09/01/2013 IEEM conference on UKOTs
The Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM) are to hold a conference on UKOTs. The conference will take place on Thursday 31 January 2013 at The Royal Astronomical Society, London (www.ras.org.uk)

Overview
The list of speakers so far includes JNCC, RSPB, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, MoD, UKOTCF and Birdlife International.
Sessions will cover:

  • Context and Current JNCC programmes and priorities;
  • RSPB – their current projects and views on priorities
  • UKOTCF views on the capacity building and local governance/development and conservation process;
  • BEST Initiative from the EU and opportunities for funding (Birdlife International);
  • Case studies from Overseas Territories - from speakers involved or based overseas, so far including the MoD on St Helena.

For more information see: IEEM Current Events

or email Mike Barker mikeb@edp-uk.co.uk

31/10/2012 New Overseas Territories Environment and Climate Fund for UKOTs
The UK Government has announced new fund for projects addressing the environment and climate change.

The Darwin Plus fund brings together the DFID/FCO-funded Overseas Territories Environment Programme (OTEP) and OT-related elements of the Defra/DFID-funded Darwin Initiative (including the Challenge Fund). The new Fund will continue to be accessible to OT Governments, NGOs, research institutions, the private sector and other stakeholders.

Proposals are being accepted from 17 October 2012 for projects of up to two years' duration commencing on or after 1 April 2013. Proposals should be submitted by Monday 7th January 2013

Guidelines and application forms are available from http://darwin.defra.gov.uk/apply/darwin-plus

27/09/2012 Environment Audit Committee launches inquiry into sustainability in UKOTs
The UK Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee has today launched a new inquiry on sustainability in the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs).

The inquiry will specifically examine:

  • The extent to which UK Government strategy on the UKOTs embodies the principles of sustainable development and appropriately trades-off environmental protection, social development and economic growth;
  • How the UK Government is fulfilling its responsibilities to protect bioversity in the UKOTs;
  • How the UK Government is helping the UKOTs adapt to the impact of climate change;
  • Whether the recommendations in our 2008 Report, Halting biodiversity loss, on safeguarding biodiversity and practising joined-up government to further conservation have been implemented;
  • Whether UK Government strategy on the UKOTs is consistent with the conclusions and commitments on protecting biodiversity reached at the recent United Nations Rio+20 conference;
  • How weaknesses in civil society and democracy in the UKOTs impact on conservation; and
  • How the introduction of ‘Marine Protected Areas’ could safeguard the marine environment in the uninhabited territories.

Submissions should be sent to the Committee by Friday 30 November 2012. Guidance on preparing submissions can be found: here
26/09/2012 EU-BEST Scheme 2012: 7 Successful projects announced
The European Commission has announced the projects to be funded under the framework of the Preparatory Action 'BEST' (Voluntary scheme for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Territories of the EU Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories). For background see below 12/03/12 EU-BEST Scheme: Call for proposals 2012 announced and 08/05/2011 EU-BEST Scheme: Call for proposals 2011 announced.

Three of the successful projects included grants for work in several UK Overseas Territories:

  • Conserving Species and Sites of International Importance by the Eradication of Invasive Species in the Caribbean UK Overseas Territories, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

  • Terrestrial ecosystems of the Falklands- a climate change risk assessment (TEFRA), Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

  • Identifying important marine areas for macaroni penguins Eudyptes chrysolophus in the UK and FR OCTs, British Antarctic Survey

The full list of projects can be downloaded: here

02/07/2012 UK Government publishes White Paper
The UK Government has published its White Paper, The Overseas Territories: Security, Success and Sustainability

"[The] White Paper is the first review of the Overseas Territories since 1999 and it demonstrates the importance the Coalition Government attaches to the Overseas Territories." Foreign Secretary William Hague announced.

"As well as having a responsibility to ensure the security and good governance of the Territories, we want the Territories to be vibrant, flourishing communities that proudly retain aspects of their British identity.

"We appreciate the remarkable diversity of the Territories, each with their own specific attributes, opportunities and challenges. This White Paper is designed to meet these challenges, to set out ways we can support the Territories and strengthen our engagement with them. It is another major milestone in our long and shared history, and I hope it will mark a new era of engagement between Britain and the Overseas Territories."

UKOTCF's submission to the White Paper can be found here

Links:

See full Ministerial statement: Ministerial statement

See the full White Paper The Overseas Territories: Security, Success and Sustainability

11/06/2012 Bermuda's Ombudsman reacts to Government's response
Bermuda's Ombudsman, Arlene Brock, has responded to the Government of Bermuda’s May 1st response to her report on the SDO process (see article below 15th Feb 2012 Ombudsman finds SDO for Tuckers Point “unlawful” referring to Environmental Charter).

“I find the continued challenge to my jurisdiction inappropriate and many of the responses to the Recommendations inadequate or even unresponsive” Mrs Brock said.

“With respect to the Government’s denial that the UK Environment Charter is a legally binding agreement, this Special Report sets out basic principles of international law on agreements between governments. Further, it details the genesis of the Charter as well as statements and actions of the Bermuda and UK Governments that prove that the commitments were intended to be implemented.”

The report stated: “Certainly, there was never any expectation that – eleven years down the road – any signatory would try to claim that the commitments are only “aspirational”. The Ombudsman points out that the UK has conducted two formal reviews (in 2007 and 2009- both conducted by UKOTCF and available at Measures of performance by 2009 of UK Overseas Territories (& Crown Dependencies) and UK Government in implementing the 2001 Environment Charters) to monitor compliance with the Charter.

“The ultimate question is whether Bermuda will join the rest of the modern world in making Environmental Impact Assessment a requirement – prior to approval – for all proposed developments that are ‘major’ or ‘likely to cause significant adverse impact on the environment’”.

“Several of the Government’s responses referred to Guidance Note 106. This is irrelevant to SDO applications which do not go to the Development Applications Board for in-principle approval.”

“I set out my jurisdiction very clearly in Appendix I of the SDO Report. Today’s Special Report adds a decision of the Privy Council that supports Bermuda’s Ombudsman Act. The words of the Ombudsman Act are crystal clear. You just cannot substitute your own words and claim that is what the Act is saying”.

Links:

Full Press Release

Full Report

04/06/2012 Tristan lights beacon to mark Queen's diamond jubilee
The Chief Islander of Tristan, the most remote inhabited island in the world, will light the most remote jubilee beacon in the world, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen on Monday 4th June 2012. The beacon has been made from invasive species of plants which were not found on Tristan when Her Majesty's reign began.

Chief Islander Lavarello was involved in some of the early planning of the island's celebrations when in London last autumn for talks with other Overseas Territories leaders, UK Ministers and Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials.
He said: “We are thrilled and we're honoured that we can celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of our Queen here on our home, the most remote inhabited island on Earth.”

More than 40% of the Tristan archipelago is conserved for rare birds, plants and other wildlife and two of its islands, Gough and Inaccessible are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Work to clear New Zealand flax, loganberry and other invasive plants is creating space for endemic species to return and the dead vegetation has to be destroyed, so the Island Council agreed that a beacon made of invasive species would have multiple benefits in brining to attention the major efforts by its islanders and conservationists.

Other press coverage:

Huffington Post Diamond Jubilee

Diamond Jubilee Beacons

St Helena Online

12/03/2012 EU-BEST Scheme: Call for proposals 2012 announced
The European Commission has announced a second call for proposals in the framework of the Preparatory Action 'BEST' (Voluntary scheme for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Territories of the EU Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories).

For background on this scheme, see" EU announces 2 million euros pilot scheme for biodiversity projects in Overseas Territories ", 02/03/2011, below.

The deadline for applications is the 1st June 2012

Further details are available from the European Commission Website here

For more information contact env-best@ec.europa.eu

12/03/2012 Darwin Main awards 2012 grants announced
Six of the successful new Darwin projects will be for work in our Overseas Territories, totalling £1.4m to help them protect their precious wildlife.

The successful projects are:

  • Implementing a Darwin Initiative Biodiversity Action Plan for Ascension Island. University of Exeter
  • Strengthening the world's largest Marine Protected Area: Chagos Archipelago. Bangor University
  • Addressing the threat of invasive species in Pitcairn Overseas Territory. RSPB
  • Laying the foundations for invertebrate conservation on St Helena. Buglife
  • Falkland Island raptors- reducing conflicts with rural livelihoods. Falklands Conservation
  • Mapping St Helena's marine biodiversity to create a Marine Management Plan. JNCC

For more information on the Darwin Initiative visit their website

12/03/2012 New Marine Protected Area for South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
The Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI)has announced the establishment of a large sustainable use Marine Protected Area (MPA) covering over 1 million km2 of the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) Maritime Zone.

Nigel Haywood, Commissioner for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, who formally signed the legislation, stated:

“The waters around South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are among the most productive in the Southern Ocean, with very high biodiversity. We remain committed to the highest standards of environmental management in this unique and globally important UK Overseas Territory.

Whilst [the] MPA announcement represents a hugely significant step in our management of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, we will not rest on our laurels and will continually strive to improve our already excellent management of the Territory.”

Read the full press release here

15/02/2012 Ombudsman finds SDO for Tuckers Point “unlawful” referring to Environmental Charter
Bermuda’s Ombudsman, Arlene Brock, has concluded that the Bermudan Government had acted unlawfully by failing to require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) prior to sending the draft Tuckers Point Special Development Order (SDO) to the House of Assembly.

For background, see “Threat to Tucker’s Point, Bermuda continues” 5 April 2011 and "Ecosystems in Bermuda threatened by development avoiding planning procedures", 11 March 2011, below.

In a detailed report to the Speaker of the House of Assembly, the Ombudsman found that:
“With respect to the Tucker’s Point SDO application, there was no proper process to gather information; the data available to inform analysis and decision-making was inadequate. The failure of a proper public consultation process resulted in ad hoc, adversarial arising of public concerns. Pertinent data was sidelined because the messengers were dismissed as tree huggers, the usual voices and alarmists”.

The report analyses past Privy Council decisions as well as international best practices and standards for public consultation and data gathering and analysis.

The report recognises the significance of the Environment Charter, which was signed by the Government of Bermuda and the UK Government in 2001 (For background see Environment Charters), as “more than just a statement of good intentions” and “while there is no annual reporting requirement, several of the other OTs voluntarily report to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on their adherence to the letter and spirit of the UK Charter.” UKOTCF undertook a report on progress on the Charters at the request of UK Government in 2007 and repeated the exercise in 2009 (see Measures of progress in implementing the Environment Charter 2009 (380kb). The Ombudsman’s report acknowledges that protecting the natural environment in the UKOTs as set out in the Environment Charters is not merely “a national priority but is of international importance”.

The report highlights the importance of Environmental Impact Assessments which are considered as international best practice for all development proposals. In Bermuda an EIA would “identify the true and domino costs of economic activities today that could adversely affect the environment for generations to come; guard against approval of development that cannot realistically be carried out; promote transparency and public trust; mute suspicions that information is deliberately withheld and that the grant of SDOs benefits the interests of a few rather than Bermuda as a whole; ultimately secure inter-generational justice through the principles and practices of sustainable development” the report concludes.

A series of recommendations are made to the Ministry of the Environment, Planning and Infrastructure Strategy and the Ministry of Public Works.

UKOTCF notes that several of these recommendations are significant to other UKOTs. For example: Follow-up with the Government of the UK regarding obligations under the UK Environment specifically:

  1. Facilitate extension of UK’s ratification of Multilateral Environmental Agreements of benefit to Bermuda
  2. Invite Bermuda to participate in the UK’s delegation to international environmental negotiations and conferences
  3. Use UK, regional and local expertise to give advice and improve knowledge of technical and scientific issues
  4. Use the existing Environmental Fund for the Overseas Territories, and promote projects of lasting benefit to Bermuda.

Bermuda benefited from the Environment Fund (renamed Overseas Territories Environment Programme see OTEP webpage) over many years, but sadly the UK Government has recently rechanneled this funding towards its own work, rather than allowing UKOTs and others with on-the-ground experience to continue to build and implement their own proposals (see “UK Government suspends OTEP funding and cancels grant to publicise projects” 25/10/2011).

Another of the Ombudsman’s recommendations is to update the Ramsar Convention list for Bermuda to include Mangrove Lake and Trott’s Pond at Tucker’s Point and other wetlands throughout Bermuda. In 2005, at the request of UK Government, UKOTCF undertook a review of the Ramsar sites in the UKOTs. This included the sites at Tuckers Point as proposed sites of international wetland importance (see Review of existing and potential Ramsar sites in UK Overseas Territories and
Crown Dependencies
) and so UKOTCF welcomes the report as an important focus, not for only Bermuda, but for other UKOTs on a number of issues relating to the protection of natural resources in light of pressure from developers.

Read the full report Today's Choices Tomorrow's Costs

15/02/2012 GOHNS and Gibraltar Government discuss Upper Rock Management Plan
Minister for the Environment, Dr John Cortes, has released a report for the management of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, published by the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GONHS), which the former Gibraltar government did not make public for six years.

In 2005, the Upper Rock Nature Reserve- A Management and Action Plan was prepared as part of an EU co-funded project. It was researched and written by Charles Perez and Dr Keith Bensusan of UKOTCF associate organisation, GONHS.

The report highlights particular concerns about the management of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. Specifically, the plan focuses on “all areas of concern within the Upper Rock, many of which are particularly important and have a direct bearing on the sustainable interests and development of the Nature Reserve. It focuses particularly on the natural environment, which has been totally neglected by management, but also on other sectors of socio-economic interests, which would complement the running and well being of the Reserve.”

The plan also made a series of recommendations for the management of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve in terms of: legislation, heritage, introduced species, habitats, fires, wildlife, research, tourism and transport.

UKOTCF recognises the role that government and non-government organisation can play in ensuring the protection of natural resources and welcomes this dialogue which will only serve to ensure the sustainable management of the Upper Rock

The full 300-page management plan is available to download: Upper Rock Reserve Management and Action Plan (13.5 MB)

Government Press statement Government releases Upper Rock report

Gibraltar Chronicle article New Plans for Upper Rock Balance

01/11/2011 Defra UK Overseas Territories Challenge Fund: Call for proposals 2011
Defra is now inviting applications for the UK Overseas Territories Challenge Fund. The guidance notes for applicants and application forms are available on the Darwin website here.

The closing date for all applications is Monday 30 January 2012. Defra expects to announce the successful applicants towards the end of March 2012.

Further information on the Darwin Initiative, including lists of projects funded in previous rounds, and copies of project documents can also be found on their website.

"The OT Challenge Fund offers an opportunity for Overseas Territories, either on their own or in partnership with institutions from the metropolitan UK or other Overseas Territories (including Crown Dependencies), to carry out longer-term and more ambitious scoping projects, designed both to assess the likely degree of success of a main project, and to carry out some pilot implementation work as well. This is intended to ensure that main projects are better grounded, and have a much greater chance of sustained success." announced the Darwin website.

25/10/2011 UK Government suspends OTEP funding and cancels grant to publicise projects
In an extraordinary announcement in late September (see Forum News 38 p6: Circular on OTEP of 26 September 2011 from FCO and DFID), the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Department of International Development suspended their OTEP small grants programme, despite assurances from both present and previous governments that this would continue. This means that, for the first time for some 20 years, there will be no FCO fund to which those working on environmental conservation in the UKOTs can apply – for even the modest funding previously available.

This is a remarkably negative achievement by the UK Government, especially in view of the Foreign Secretary’s underlining earlier this year the Government’s ongoing commitment to “cherish the rich environmental assets” of the UKOTs “for which, together, we are responsible.” It is all the more extraordinary given that the commitment to OTEP funding was one of the very few specific commitments made in the “UKOTs Biodiversity Strategy” produced in 2009 but endorsed by the present government.

“The UK Government will:
i. provide project funds for biodiversity conservation and wider environmental management, within the resource limits of each department, aiming to increase the amount of money available to at least £2 million pa. This will be achieved by:
a) maintaining OTEP (which funds some biodiversity projects and some wider environmental projects) with a budget of at least £1million pa”.

Additionally, the small grant which helped UKOTCF fulfil UKG’s request (which is still current, without funding – see Forum News 38 pp 13-16) to publicise and disseminate information on OTEP has been cancelled. Furthermore, after two years of prevarication, UKG indicated earlier this year that it would no longer contribute to the UKOTCF-organised 3-yearly conferences, highly valued by conservation practitioners in the UKOTs (see Forum News 38 p7). The decisions that have been made leading to the suspension of OTEP have taken place without consultation with NGOs or others – a markedly retrograde step and one which seems to be a worrying trend, contrary to the UK Governments “Big Society” philosophy.

Forum News 38 is available to download here

24/10/2011 Net-BIOME announces successful research projects
Previous reports have outlined progress in the Net-BIOME project, in which UKOTCF is a partner. This project has been successful in assembling a fund for biodiversity research in the Overseas Entities of European Union member states.

This invited bids some months ago, and the list of successful bids is now available www.netbiome.org

Unfortunately, UK Government failed to contribute any funding for this. Therefore UKOT and UK bodies could not be major partners in bids. Nevertheless, a few UKOTs are involved in some of the successful applications, due to the generosity of France, Spain and Portugal and their overseas entities.

A senior UK conservationist involved in the process commented: "It has been depressing over recent years to witness the lack of commitment by successive UK governments to conservation of the most globally important biodiversity for which it is responsible. UK Governments have performed appallingly badly compared with those of other EU states.”

06/10/2011 Foreign and Commonwealth Office Consultation: A new strategy for the UKOTs
The aims of UK Government’s strategy, launched on the 27th September 2011, are to: strengthen the engagement and interaction between the UK and the Territories; work with Territories to strengthen good governance arrangements, public financial management and economic planning; and improve the quality and range of support available to the UKOTs.

“Since we came to Office in May 2010, this Government has worked hard to re-invigorate the UK’s relationship with the Overseas Territories. This consultation is an important part of that approach as we move toward a new White Paper on the Overseas Territories next year” announced Minister for the Overseas Territories Henry Bellingham.

“There are many people and groups who have an interest in the future of the Overseas Territories and can provide us with insight into how to develop the UK’s relationship with them. I look forward to receiving their ideas.”

UKOTCF will prepare a submission, and encourages partners to comment, both directly to the FCO and via comments to UKOTCF.

The consultation ends on 31st December 2011.

For more information visit the FCO website at: www.ukoverseasterritories.readandcomment.com

A copy of the consultation questions are available here

07/09/2011 Flagship Species Fund: Call for Proposals 2012
The Flagship Species Fund provides practical support for the conservation of endangered species and their habitats in developing countries, focusing on so-called "flagship species". Launched in 2001, the fund is a joint initiative between Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the UK Government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). In addition, matched funding is sought each year from our corporate partners.

Flagship species are considered to be symbolic to either international or local audiences, and can be used to raise awareness or support for conservation efforts. However, the Fund aims to support projects which go beyond single species conservation, but bring broad benefits to a habitats or wider ecosystem. The Fund's key taxonomic focus remains on primates, sea turtles and trees.

The Flagship Species Fund is focused on supporting the work of locally-based conservation groups or agencies in the developing world, particularly those who have previous or ongoing relationships with FFI or other UK-based international conservation organisations. Projects can be based in any developing country, but in addition there is a particular interest in seeing supporting work in the UK Overseas Territories, and thus locally-based UKOT organisations with relevant projects are encouraged to apply.

In 2012 the Flagship Species Fund is looking to support up to eight projects at a level of £5,000 to £15,000 (the average budget being less than £10,000).

To apply for 2012 funding, applicants must submit a basic project concept (only applications using the format outlined below will be accepted) by a deadline of 21st September 2011.

The criteria for application are as follows:

  • Be made by, or on behalf of, a local organisation in a developing country or a UK Overseas Territory;

  • Focus on a globally threatened species in one of the fund's priority categories: primates, trees and sea turtles. In addition, a small amount of funding may be available for projects which focus on other taxa, providing that:

  • The species is clearly a strong local flagship

AND/OR

  • The species is underrepresented in other conservation funding streams;

  • Have a clearly defined conservation outcome that, although focussed on a flagship species, should also demonstrate positive impacts on the wider habitat and ecosystem;
  • Contribute towards delivery of one or more of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets

  • Be field based and focus on direct conservation action (to date projects have focused on direct species intervention, education and training, survey and research and, to some extent, policy and planning);

  • Be between 6-18 months duration, and in a position to start in early 2012

For information on how to apply click here

15/07/2011 UKOTCF and Turks & Caicos National Museum open the first bird trails in Grand Turk

After many years of preparation and set-backs due to the challenges that the Turks & Caicos Islands have faced in recent years, UKOTCF and its local Associate organisation, the Turks & Caicos National Museum open a walking trail and a driving trail, highlighting the salt-pans (or salinas) of Grand Turk, which are internationally important for birds, and one of the best places in the world for seeing normally shy water-birds up close. As well as the official opening, the week of events includes a guided walk for high school students and their teachers, a guided coach trip on the driven trail, and a film night with a programme including a short film made in-house by UKOTCF on the birds of the Grand Turk salinas. Some clips from the film made by Ann Pienkowski and interviews with Mike & Ann Pienkowski, who designed the trail, are available in the broadcast news item from TCI's Channel 4 TV.

In addition to the lead and major contributions by UKOTCF and TCNM, implementation of the trails was made possible by a grant from the Carnival/TCInvest/TCI Government Infrastructure Fund, and the making available of equipment and operators by Turks & Caicos Utilities.

This is one of several current joint projects by UKOTCF and TCI partners. Another is the "Wonderful Water" project, with the TCI Education Department, and partly supported by the UK Government's Overseas Territories Environment Programme. This project is developing a new curriculum structure for upper primary and lower secondary students, and some of the course materials to implement this.

A Channel 4 news item on the workshops introducing teachers from all the state schools in TCI is available here.

Informed by the feedback from these workshops on the curriculum and the pilot modules, work is progressing on other modules, to be introduced to teachers in the final round of workshops in early 2012.

28/06/2011 UK Government's policy paper on nature gives priority to UKOT biodiversity

UK Government's recent consultation paper on nature policy did not mention UK Overseas Territories. UKOTCF commented on this consultation, pointing out that most of the globally important biodiversity for which UK is responsible is in the UKOTs.

UKOTCF is pleased that the Government has taken this into account. The resulting White Paper, The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature, published recently says:

"We will also continue to give priority to the UK Overseas Territories (OTs) Biodiversity Strategy, through a co-ordinated approach across government that is led by the National Security Council. The Government will continue its engagement with the OTs in their efforts to conserve their biodiversity through programmes such as the Flagship Species Fund and one-off initiatives such as the £200,000 contribution towards a project to eradicate rodents on Henderson Island in the Pitcairn Group. Moreover, the Darwin Initiative is also making a significant difference to wildlife in our OTs. An additional £1.5 million has already been invested in Darwin projects in the three years from 2010, and this sum will increase further as a result of the new Darwin funding referred to above."

The White Paper can be read here

12/05/2011 House of Commons Committee Report on FCO

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee published on 12th May 2011 its report on
The Role of the FCO in UK Government. UKOTCF gave a submission to the Committee in respect of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office's role in leading on UK Overseas Territories matters.

The full report is available here. The main points relating to UKOTs include:

73. In David Miliband's 2008 Strategic Framework for the FCO, the reference to the OTs which had previously been included among the department's priorities disappeared. It has not been restored in the various sets of priorities set out for the FCO under the current Government. In its major Report on the Overseas Territories in 2008, our predecessor Committee identified particular challenges that its role in relation to the OTs poses for the FCO, as well as serious problems arising in connection with a number of Territories, above all the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). The Committee concluded that the FCO 'must take its oversight responsibilities for the Overseas Territories more seriously'. In this context, the previous Committee welcomed the assurances which it received from the previous Government that the disappearance of any reference to the OTs from the FCO's official priorities did not imply any downgrading in the importance which the department attached to this area of its responsibilities. Nevertheless, at the end of the previous Parliament (in its last Report on an FCO departmental annual report, in March 2010), and in light of continuing problems in a number of OTs (most notably TCI), our predecessor Committee felt obliged to declare itself still 'unconvinced that the department [was] exercising its responsibilities for them with sufficient diligence'.

74. We received two submissions to our present inquiry stressing the importance of the FCO's role with respect to the OTs. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum (UKOTCF) both emphasised the importance of: the FCO's role in representing the OTs to Government and officialdom in London, and ensuring that the UK public is aware of the Territories; its duty to ensure that other departments take the OTs elements of their responsibilities seriously; and its direct responsibilities for the OTs, particularly with respect to biodiversity and the environment, and including the quality of OTs Governors' work on these issues.

75. The Government intends to publish a White Paper on the OTs later in 2011. The Foreign Secretary told the House on 10 March that he planned to secure cross-departmental agreement through the National Security Council (NSC) to the strategy underpinning the White Paper. The Foreign Secretary also announced increased funding for some OTs projects and programmes. Both the RSPB and the UKOTCF welcomed what they saw as early signs that under the current Government the FCO was devoting greater effort to OTs matters. However, we have continued to be made aware of serious problems in TCI.

76. We conclude that the FCO's responsibility for the UK's Overseas Territories (OTs) constitutes an important - but sometimes overlooked - part of its role in UK Government, and one that needs to be discharged with due seriousness. We welcome indications that the Government is seeking to strengthen the FCO's work on the OTs, including by making a greater effort to lead across Government on OTs matters. We look forward to engaging with the Government on its planned White Paper on the OTs, and may return to the issue of the FCO's role in respect of the Territories in that context.

08/05/2011 EU-BEST Scheme: Call for proposals 2011 announced

The European Commission has announced an open call for proposals in the framework of the Preparatory Action 'BEST' (Voluntary scheme for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Territories of the EU Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories).

For background on this scheme, see" EU announces 2 million euros pilot scheme for biodiversity projects in Overseas Territories ", 02/03/2011, below.

The deadline for applications is the 9th September 2011

Further details are available from the European Commission Website here

Application Forms and further information:

Call announcement

Guidelines for Applicants

Application Form

For more information contact env-best@ec.europa.eu

Further Information:

EU Strategy to 2020 download here

08/05/2011 Darwin Initiative: Call for funding applications Round 18

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is now inviting applications from UK institutions and organisations in the UK Overseas Territories for support for Main projects to commence from 1 April 2012 and for Post Projects to commence from 1 October 2011. There will be up to £9m available for this new round.

New guidance notes and application forms are available on the Darwin website at www.darwin.defra.gov.uk

Or you can download the forms here:

Guidance Notes

Application Form- Stage 1

Application Form- Stage 2

The process for full projects will be carried out in two stages. Only those applicants successful at Stage 1 will be asked to continue to Stage 2. Please ensure that you read the guidance carefully and complete the forms accordingly - word counts and provision of supporting documentation will be strictly enforced.

The closing date for Stage 1 applications is midnight on Monday 20 June 2011

Stage 1 applicants will be notified during the week commencing Monday 15 August 2011 and successful applicants will be asked to submit full applications for Stage 2 by midnight on Monday 24 October 2011. Defra hopes to announce the successful Round 18 applications by the end of the year.

The closing date for full Post Project applications will be Monday 13 June 2011.

A further call for funding under the UK OT Challenge Fund to carry out longer-term and more ambitious scoping projects, designed both to assess the likely degree of success of a main project, and to carry out some pilot implementation work is expected in autumn 2011.

For all queries relating to project applications, applications information and procedures contact: darwin-application@ltsi.co.uk

05/04/2011 Threat to Tucker's Point, Bermuda continues

The debate about the Tucker's Point SDO in Senate on 18 March was halted to "rise and report progress", so that environmentalists expressed cautious hope that their voices had been heard.

However, the Bermuda Government moved incredibly quickly to amend the SDO, which Senate passed on 25 March with relatively little change to the potentially damaging development.

Optimism that this damaging development would not proceed proved ill-founded.

For background, see "Ecosystems in Bermuda threatened by development avoiding planning procedures", 11/03/2011, below.

After the Senate debate on March 18 was halted, Bermuda National Trust executive director Jennifer Gray told the Royal Gazette: "The Bermuda National Trust is relieved that the SDO for Tucker's Point was deferred on Friday night [18 March] in the Senate, and is glad that, temporarily at least, the hills of Castle Harbour are safe. We cautiously wait to see what form any amendments to the SDO may take, should there be any, but are encouraged that the SDO is to be revisited and hope that any future proposals will preserve the integrity of the protected natural areas and prevent the encroachment of development into them."

Stuart Haywood, from the Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce (BEST), said any amended order should ensure there could be no re-zoning of protected land. "We would prefer to see [development at] other places where the Bermuda public was not being asked to sacrifice its heritage of protected lands." He said any revised plan should ensure development on less sensitive land or building more densely on the areas of Tucker's Point not protected in law.

Premier Paula Cox said that the concerns of SDO objectors had been heard. Environment Minister Walter Roban did not respond to a request for comment, nor did he reply when asked if he would meet environmentalists to find common ground.

Suddenly, on 24 March, it was revealed that the SDO had been amended and would go back to Senate so that the halted debate could be continued. The amended SDO was said to address the concerns of Senators by excluding Quarry Hill from the SDO, dropping two of the nine planned lots on Paynter's Hill, and donating six acres of land to Government instead, reducing the Whitecrest Hill development from 54 to 45 lots, with another seven acres of land donated to Government. A map showing this can be seen at: Revised Tucker's Point SDO to go before Senators

The SDO was passed by the Senate on 25 March.

The Bermuda National Trust are concerned that the minor concessions made in the amended SDO do not address the fundamental problem of allowing further development in this area, especially considering the strength of feeling of local people against the development. The actual planning process may be the last opportunity for objections to be voiced and taken account of.

Relevant articles, and updates, can be read online at the Royal Gazette website www.royalgazette.com

Some specific links are:

24 March- Tucker's Point hopes for quick resolution over SDO

25 March-Revised Tucker's Point SDO to go before Senators

26 March-Senate approves revised SDO for Tucker's Point

4 April- BEST takes aim at Tucker's Point's application at Planning

22/03/2011 New UK Tentative List of World Heritage Sites

UKOTCF has long been concerned at the under-representation of the outstanding heritage of UK Overseas Territories amongst UK's actual and proposed World Heritage Sites; a concern shared by a wide consultation commissioned by UK's Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) in 2009. Countries can propose sites for World Heritage status only after they are included in the national Tentative List. In 2010, DCMS invited bids for sites for a new UK Tentative List, to replace the List issued in 1999. 38 sites were put forward, including 4 from the UKOTs and 2 from a Crown Dependency. DCMS appointed an expert panel to assess these.

On 22 March 2011, DCMS Minister for Tourism and Heritage, John Penrose MP, announced that UK Government is following the recommendations of this panel that the new UK Tentative List includes three UKOT sites. These are:

  • Gorham's Cave Complex, Gibraltar: a site important for remains of Neanderthal man and other features of human archaeology;

  • The Island of St Helena: a site of quite staggering world importance for many endemic species, genera and ecosystems, as well as of great historical importance;

  • The Turks & Caicos Islands: a site of great importance to endemic species, migratory birds, coral reefs and the location of an internationally important salt industry for centuries.

UKOTCF remains ready to assist, where possible, in the further work necessary to take forward these cases for designation.

UKOTCF is disappointed that Fountains Cavern, Anguilla, which was on the 1999 List, has been dropped from the new List. This is despite progress towards designation of this site, which would have been the first World Heritage Site of ceremony and rock-art of the native Caribbean people.

The UKOT sites already on the World Heritage List are:

  • Henderson Island, Pitcairn: for its remarkably intact natural ecosystems and endemic species;

  • Gough and Inaccessible Islands, Tristan da Cunha: for their natural systems, endemic species and hugely important seabird populations;

  • Historic Town of St George and Related Fortifications, Bermuda: for historic buildings.
18/03/2011 Ship-wreck threatens endemic birds at Tristan da Cunha

The MS Oliva, a 75,300 tonne bulk carrier en route from Santos in Brazil to Singapore carrying soya beans, ran aground on Nightingale Island, Tristan da Cunha on 16th March 2011.

Fortunately all 22 crew were rescued. Fifteen crew members were taken to Tristan aboard the MV Edinburgh and are being looked after by Islanders. The remaining crew have returned to Nightingale Island aboard the MV Edinburgh to monitor the vessel and await the arrival of the salvage team which is expected to arrive from Cape Town on Monday 21st March.

As the weather worsened overnight on Thursday 17th March, the MS Oliva broke her back in the force of a relentless swell and the ship's superstructure is now breaking up. Heavy oil has leaked from the ship and now surrounds Nightingale's coast. A team from Tristan Conservation Department, including Simon Glass, Wayne Swain and Matthew Green, were already on Nightingale for other work, and are making an initial assessment of the damage to Nightingale's seabirds.

Nightingale Island lies 38km southwest of Tristan and 22km southeast of Inaccessible Island. The Tristan da Cunha group (including Nightingale, Inaccessible and more distant Gough) are internationally important for their breeding populations of some twenty species of birds. Ten of these are endemic, with another virtually so (a few pairs nesting on Falklands). More than 10,000 pairs of water birds occur regularly on Nightingale Island, and it is a proposed Wetland of International Importance. The island is by far the most important breeding place in the world for Great Shearwater. Nearby Inacessible Island (which is close enough to be potentially impacted) is the only breeding place in the world for the Spectacled Petrel and the flightless Inaccessible Rail. These two islands also support the endemic Tristan Trush and Tristan Bunting.

This is a critical time for adult seabirds that are flying constantly from their nests to catch fish, squid etc, to feed their rapidly growing chicks. The island has no land mammals and is regarded as one of the world's most important wildlife habitats. Inaccessible and Gough Island, which are designated as a World Heritage Site, may also be at risk from oil pollution.

The islanders of Tristan receive valuable foreign earnings from the commercial craw-fishing (for Tristan Rock Lobster) industry, which is the mainstay of the island's economy. A major leak of oil on to Nightingale and the surrounding islands could have a major impact on Tristan Islanders' livelihoods.

Mr Andrew Gurr, Governor of Tristan da Cunha, said on 18th March 2011:

"It is too early to be certain about either the causes of this accident or the consequences for the local environment. But the Tristan Government is committed to ensuring that the ship's owners will meet the full cost of any clean-up, damage or subsequent losses arising from the situation."

UKOTCF will be following the developments on Nightingale closely and will support the Islanders in any way they can.

There are several websites covering the story:

Tristan da Cunha Association website

Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels website

St Helena Independent article

11/03/2011 Ecosystems in Bermuda threatened by development avoiding planning procedures

Developers wish to build an additional 78 private homes and 70 hotel rooms on the 240-acre Tucker's Point site in three stages. This development will be on several plots of land that were previously protected from development for environmental reasons. The operators of Tucker's Point, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, say expansion is needed to secure the five star resort's financial viability. However, concern has been expressed that failures to pay back large commercial loans, including one of over £100 million from HSBC Bermuda, are behind the Special Development Order.

Bermuda's Government says the SDO is in the national interest as the resort is important to Bermuda’s tourism product. But environmentalists argue the development will destroy protected woodland and open space. The area is also culturally and historically sensitive as land was forcibly taken from black families in the 1920s to be used in tourism.

The land earmarked for the development includes pristine hills and endangered woodland on top of a network of ancient underground caves. Allowing large swathes of green space to be used for property development is against the sustainability principles enshrined in Bermuda's planning law.

The Planning Development Applications Board does not have the authority to allow such a large development on open space. However a Special Development Order can be used to circumvent those statutes if Government deems it a "national priority".

The Bermuda National Trust, the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Task Force, the Bermuda Audubon Society are amongst those campaigning against the development and the Special Development Order.

Only very small areas of natural habitat survive in Bermuda. The hills of Castle Harbour are one of the few places left where multiple habitats of major and critical significance are sustained.

The geology of the area has meant that it has remained relatively undeveloped while the rest of Bermuda was being built upon. Indirectly, this has resulted in this section of the island serving as a safe haven for numerous unique life forms, many critically endangered, in the most extensive remaining tracts of forest left that pre-date settlement. These areas consist of some of the last natural refuges of critically endangered flora such as the Yellow-wood tree or the endemic Wild Bermuda Pepper, to name a few.

Below these hills are globally important caves joined by extensive passageways which sustain a disproportionate amount of diverse and unique wildlife and flora. In Bermuda's caves, more than 60 endemic species have been identified. Due to the vulnerability of these ecosystems to threats, such as development, 25 of these species have been listed as critically endangered. The area is within a proposed Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, of which Bermuda is included in UK's ratification.

These lands are protected also by a myriad of legislation, which reflects the area's nature as part of an extensive tract of open space that supports important ecology, large woodlands, and recreation land, and provides amenity value beyond measure. The larger the tract of undeveloped land the more wildlife it can sustain; the concern is that to continue to fragment this area with development, as the proposal may seek to do, will severely degrade the habitat value of the area and Bermuda as a whole.

The Tucker's Point SDO was passed by Bermuda's House of Assembly in the early hours of 1 March 2011. The order will now go to the Bermuda Senate, on 16 March. Over 2000 people joined a protest walk through the area, on 6 March. The intention of the walk was to show members of the public the impact of the development on one of the largest remaining undeveloped plots of land in Bermuda. Local campaigners hope that public pressure and wider awareness of the issue will encourage the Bermuda Senate to pass the order back to the House of Assembly.

You can read various reports about the Tucker’s Point SDO issue from the Royal Gazette online:

www.royalgazette.com

Here are links to some of the most relevant articles:

MPs pass Tucker's Point SDO

Roban denies conflict of interest

Minister scotches HSBC rumours

Critics of the deal say the fight is not over yet

Thousands turn up to hear about Rosewood Tucker's Point expansion

The map of the area, and the information walk held on Sunday 6 March which was attended by over 2000 people, can be viewed here

02/03/2011 EU announces 2 million euros pilot scheme for biodiversity projects in Overseas Territories

Several years ago, UKOTCF and its French and Netherlands partners in Bioverseas indicated to the European Commission the need for a scheme to make support available for conservation in the Overseas Countries & Territories (OCTs) of European Union (EU) Member States and also those Outermost Regions (OR) not covered by the EU's conservation directives. This would be a voluntary scheme inspired by the statutory Natura 2000 sites within the EU itself.

At the meeting was Mr Ladislav Miko (now Deputy Director General of the European Commission's DG SANCO, previously acting as Director for Nature of the European Commission's DG Environment). He extended the idea at the July 2008 a conference on The European Union and its Overseas Entities: Strategies to counter Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss, was held in La Reunion under the French Presidency of the European Union and attended by UKOTCF.

Paragraph 13 of the Message from Reunion Island said:

"There is an urgent need for EU Member States and the European Commission, together with the ORs and OCTs, to establish a voluntary scheme for the protection of species and habitats, inspired by the Natura 2000 approach. This scheme should be easily accessible, flexible, adapted to the local situation, balance conservation and development needs, as well as take into account existing mechanisms and tools. The implementation of the scheme should be based on local commitment and shared financing."

Mr Miko then led the development of this concept as BEST, the Voluntary scheme for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Territories of European Overseas. Mr Maurice Ponga, and Mr Elie Hoarau, both Members of the European Parliament elected for the overseas constituency, were instrumental in securing funding for 'preparatory action'. The funding was approved in December 2010 and foresees 2 million euro for the implementation of BEST pilot projects in 2011.

In October 2010, at the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, representatives of the European Commission, the European Parliament, France and the United Kingdom jointly announced this voluntary scheme.

UKOTCF welcomes the announcement from the European Commission, on 1 March 2011, that the Commission is to make available 2 million euros to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services in ORs and OCTs, to fund pilot projects in these areas as part of the BEST scheme. The European Commission plans to launch a call for proposals in May 2011 for projects that wish to apply for funding. The projects will showcase the scheme and will prepare the ground for a governance structure with a view to longer term support. The scheme will build on existing sites and networks and take on board previous projects.

For the full press release: here

Or visit European Commission website: here

15/02/2011 The Hub: Caribbean Conservation Network

The Caribbean Hub is new website that brings together ideas, people, projects, experience, expertise, funds and common resources; particularly for those with an interest in combating invasive species, climate change and preserving biodiversity in the Caribbean region.

The Hub arose from a call for action from attendees at the meeting: Helping Islands Adapt Workshop on Regional Action to Combat Invasive Species on Islands to Preserve Biodiversity and Adapt to Climate Change, 12-16 April 2010, Auckland, New Zealand. Funding for the establishment of the Hub was contributed by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) in June 2010.

New users can register as an individual or organisation and then have access to: a discussion forum; resources such as reports and publications; a project section with ideas for collaboration and partners; environmental news from the Caribbean.

Visit the Caribbean Hub website at: www.caribbeanhub.net

24/01/2011 Flagship Species Fund: Call for proposals 2011

The Flagship Species Fund provides practical support for the conservation of endangered species and their habitats in developing countries, focusing on so-called "flagship species". Launched in 2001, the fund is a joint initiative between Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the UK Government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). In addition, matched funding is sought each year from our corporate partners.

Flagship species are considered to be symbolic to either international or local audiences, and can be used to raise awareness or support for conservation efforts. However, the Fund aims to support projects which go beyond single species conservation, but bring broad benefits to a habitats or wider ecosystem. The Fund's key taxonomic focus remains on primates, turtles and trees.

The Flagship Species Fund is focused on supporting the work of locally-based conservation groups or agencies in the developing world, particularly those who have previous or ongoing relationships with FFI or other UK-based international conservation organisations. Projects can be based in any developing country, but in addition there is a particular interest in seeing supporting work in the UK Overseas Territories, and thus locally-based UKOT organisations with relevant projects are encouraged to apply.

Defra has now renewed its commitment to provide funding for 2011, and the FFI/Defra Flagship Species Fund is looking to support 3-4 projects at a level of £5,000 to £15,000 (the average budget being less than £10,000).

To apply for funding for 2011 we need to receive a basic project concept (in the format outlined below) by a deadline of Friday 25th February 2011.

The criteria for application are as follows:

  • The application should be made by, or on behalf of, a local partner organisation;

  • The Fund generally supports projects in less developed countries, but also encourages applications from UK Overseas Territories;

  • The Fund supports projects with a clearly defined conservation outcome - usually field-based projects focusing on direct conservation action; to date projects have focused on survey and research, direct species intervention, education and training, and to some extent policy and planning;

  • In line with the FFI mission statement, Flagship Species Fund projects are expected to take account of human needs in their planning and operation;

  • Although focused on flagship speciesit is expected that projects can demonstrate impacts beyond the single species, and on the wider habitat and ecosystem;

  • Projects must fit with the taxonomic priorities of the Fund. In previous years funding has been restricted to projects focused on primates, turtles and trees. These are still identified as the priority taxa for investment, however Defra have agreed to consider a small number of projects outside these criteria, which address other high profile flagship species or clear situations oflocally appropriate flagship species, where specific relevance of a species has already been established by a local community with which the project will work.

  • Flagship Species Fund projects are typically of 6-18 months duration, and ideally should be in a position to start in mid 2011.

For information on how to application procedure click here

07/12/2010 St Helena National Trust launches strategy

The St Helena National Trust strategic vision document was officially launched on 24th November 2010. It is an excellent fully illustrated 18 page brochure - Saint Helena: Protecting the world heritage of a small island.

The Trust's vision for St Helena's extraordinary built heritage and unique biodiversity is outlined in the document. The Trust also considers making improvements to tourism and enhancing the skills of the local population as important for its future. The Trust, through its work, hopes to ensure the following:

Reopening of High Knoll fort
Rejuvenation of Lemon Valley
Restoration of Bertrand's Cottage
Take responsibility for flagship sites
Conserve threatened species
Restore native habitats
Control of invasive species
Secure endemic Wirebird numbers

For the full document download here [1.1MB]

To contact the Trust:
St Helena National Trust.
PO Box 113,
Broadway House,
Island of St Helena.
STHL 1ZZ.
South Atlantic Ocean
Tel +290 2190
Email: sth.nattrust@cwimail.sh

Links www.nationaltrust.org.sh

26/11/2010 NET-BIOME: Research Joint Call Announced

For background, see "NET-BIOME: Newsletter #2", 26/08/2010, below.

Unfortunately, the funding situation with respect to the Net-Biome Research Joint Call remains unchanged: despite the best efforts of the UKOTCF, there still seems to be no prospect of UK Government funding.

Technically, this means that while UK/UKOT research organisations are eligible to join the Call for projects, they will need to be self-funding.

However, the UKOTCF is pleased to inform interested parties, that some of the Net-Biome Call partners have generously (but informally) agreed to use a portion of their funds to bring on board non-contributing research partners, where this provides added value.

This means that UK/UKOT research organisations may well be eligible for Net-Biome funding if they have links with research institutes in the requisite number of European Tropical and Subtropical Outermost Regions (OR) and Overseas Countries and Territories(OCT) and are involved in common areas of research.

The situation is still developing but the best advice at this stage would be for interested parties to Submit a Manifestation of Interest (MoI) (available at www.netbiome.org). Submission is not compulsory, but it would be very welcome and may be used to persuade more funders to join the call. MoI will be accepted until 30th December 2010, please e-mail submissions to the Net-Biome Joint Call Secretariat (JCS) netbiome.jcs@fct.mctes.pt

The Net-Biome Research Joint Call has now been launched. In order to be added to the announcement mailing list please email the Joint Call Secretariat netbiome.jcs@fct.mctes.pt in order to be added to the announcement mailing list.The Call is open between 26th November 2010 and 28th February 2011.

The total amount of funding available for this call is close to 3.5m Euros among 10 funders. Since Net-Biome Joint Call is funded through a virtual common pot scheme, applicants are bound to follow their national and/or regional regulations when it comes to funding. For further information visit the site at: Joint Call details webpage

Contact: Joint Call Secretariat (JCS)
Fundacao para a Ciencia e a Tecnologia
Lisboa,
Portugal
Claudia Delgado
e-mail: netbiome.jcs@fct.mctes.pt
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Phone: 351-213 924 456
webaite:http://alfa.fct.mctes.pt

20/10/2010 RSPB announce Henderson Island Restoration Project to commence in 2011

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has announced that the Henderson Island Restoration Project will go ahead in August 2011. This project aims to rid the island of Pacific rats, probably introduced by the Polynesians, which prey on the eggs and chicks of ground nesting birds including the endangered Henderson petrel, found nowhere else.

The total cost of the eradication project is estimated at £1.7m. The RSPB have raised £1.086m so far, so they still need to raise the outstanding balance of £600,000 before July 2011 in order to be sure that the project is completed. Henderson Island is a World Heritage Site and is believed to be "one of the few atolls in the world whose ecology has been practically untouched by a human presence".

Further details on this project, plus a new video showcasing the wildlife of Henderson Island and the devastating impacts of rodent predation, can be found here.

Other Links:

RSPB website-Henderson Project

UNESCO website-Henderson Profile

07/10/2010 Amphibian and Reptile Conservation publish a new report on the UK Overseas Territories

A report by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust is the "first attempt" to produce a "complete species inventory and overview of the reptiles and amphibians of the British Territories". The report will help to direct future herpetofauna conservation work in the territories.

The aims of the report are:

  1. To produce a complete inventory of herpetofauna in the UKOTs.
  2. To help identify conservation priorities through consultation with and input from experts.
  3. To make initial recommendations for further survey, monitoring and scientific research work needed.
  4. To provide the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust with the necessary background information on species distribution, conservation status, research priorities and funding requirements to help determine its own future involvement in this area. This will include exploring options for further projects and funding.

For the full report download here.

26/08/2010 NET-BIOME: Newsletter #2

The second edition of the NET-BIOME newsletter [download here (1.19 MB)] gives a glimpse of the project's activities, features the work of two of its partners and describes a number of local biodiversity initiatives. It also announces the upcoming launch of NET-BIOME's first Joint Research Call for applications for funding for biodiversity research on the tropical and subtropical Overseas Entities of European Union Member States.

Net-Biome is a four-year European Union (EU) sponsored project (2007-2011) designed to help coordinate and promote programmes of regional and thematic research for Tropical and Subtropical Biodiversity in the Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries & Territories of the European Union. It has eleven partners (including UKOTCF) from five EU Member States.

UKOTCF makes an important contribution to the work of the NET-BIOME and, in the absence of a UK government involvement in the project, has striven to connect the UKOTs with the work of this ground-breaking European initiative. This has included a sustained drive to secure an opening for the UKOTs in NET-BIOME's first Joint Research Call.

Unfortunately, UKOTCF has not yet been able to persuade the UK Government to contribute to the NET-BIOME Joint Call funds. The result of this is that the UK Overseas Territories and research organizations in UKOTs and UK have been excluded from the funding benefits of this crucially important common initiative. This means that, whilst UK and UKOT research groups will still be able to join the NET-BIOME Joint Call research projects, they would need to be fully self-funded.

This is a very unsatisfactory situation - even in the face of the current financial constraints. Not only does it fly in the face of decades of national conservation policies, it is also completely at odds with the recently published UK Government's Biodiversity Strategy for the UKOTs.

More information on this important, ground-breaking European initiative can be found on the NET-BIOME web site www.netbiome.org. To receive the next newsletter automatically, register on the webpage of NET-BIOME.

Contact Information: netbiome@netbiome@netbiome.net

03/08/2010 UNESCO World Heritage Committee to discuss Henderson

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee, currently meeting in Brasilia (26 July - 3 August 2010), is to discuss the state of conservation of one of the UK's most remarkable natural World Heritage Sites - Henderson Island.

Remote and uninhabited, this island in the UK Overseas Territory of the Pitcairn Islands (central South Pacific) is internationally recognised as the last pristine limestone island of significant size in the world (see Forum News 36, June 2010). Over 55 endemic species occur on this isolated outcrop, including four unique land-birds. Henderson is also a global stronghold of the gadfly petrel group, and the only known nesting site of the endangered Henderson petrel.

The World Heritage Committee will consider the threat to this unique biodiversity presented by introduced Pacific rats. Evidence from fieldwork has shown that rats kill 95% of petrel chicks on Henderson within the first week of hatching - over 25,000 chicks every year, Since petrels lay only one egg in a clutch, this level of predation has driven massive population declines. Modelling indicates that petrel numbers have dropped from a possible 5 million pairs before rats were introduced to just 40,000 pairs today, and the Henderson petrel is threatened with global extinction. Other species are also being affected seriously, with rats predating on - and competing with - Henderson's endemic land-bird species, snails, insects and flora, as well as on the hatchlings of the nesting green turtle population.

The Committee is expected to urge the UK Government to conserve urgently the outstanding universal value of the Site by securing the rapid implementation of a rodent eradication operation. Such an operation would be world-leading, representing the largest tropical or sub-tropical island ever to be cleared of invasive rodents. The gains would be enormous: the Henderson petrel saved from its decline towards extinction, at least a further ten species safeguarded for future generations to enjoy, and a seabird sanctuary of global significance created. The total seabird population is expected to increase up to a hundred-fold after rats are removed, which would ultimately restore the marine-nutrient derived basis of the island's entire ecosystem.

If such an operation does not go ahead, there is a risk that Henderson Island could be inscribed on the 'World Heritage in Danger' list.

RSPB is currently preparing a rodent eradication operation for Henderson Island. This is tentatively scheduled for July-August 2011, but this is contingent on the required funds being raised by September 2010 (best practice in island eradications dictates a lead-in time of at least
9 months). The total cost of the operation is estimated at 1.7 million GBP, of which 965,000 GBP has been raised so far, including a 213,000 GBP contribution from the UK Government. The RSPB is calling on the UK Government to contribute a total of 500,000 GBP towards the cost of the operation so as to meet its legal responsibility to conserve this unique World Heritage Site, and has described the operation as some of the most cost-effective conservation that money can buy.

For further information on this work, please contact Jonathan Hall (jonathan.hall@rspb.org.uk)

UKOTCF recalls the report commissioned by the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport (World Heritage for the Nation: Identifying, Protecting and Promoting our World Heritage, by Kirsty Norman, Centre for Applied Archaeology, UCL, December 2009). Amongst the points made in that were:

  • WH status has particular importance to the UKOTs/CDs, which are easily overlooked, both in the UK and internationally.

  • the natural and cultural heritage of the UKOTs is often very distinctive from, located far away from, and (particularly in the case of biodiversity) of greater international importance than that of the 'domestic' UK.

  • of the over 268 million GBP allocated to WHSs since 1994, none has been allocated to Sites on the UKOTs

  • the UKOTs and CDs are a special case, with natural Sites in the UKOTs urgently requiring increased funding for their management because of problems of invasive alien species. UKOT administrations such as Tristan de Cunha and Pitcairn Island do not have the budgets to deal with these problems. Without these resources, it was felt that there is the real possibility that Sites will be eligible for listing on the WH in Danger List.

UKOTCF concurs with the report of the consultants of DCMS (now DCOMS), congratulates RSPB on raising major funding for this purpose so that voluntary sources are meeting much of UK Government's commitments. UKOTCF supports RSPB's call to UK Government to make a further contriution to this cost.

Article from the Independent here

30/07/2010 UK Government announce Airport for St Helena

International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, has given the go-ahead for an airport on St Helena, on the grounds that it will provide value to the UK taxpayer and will help to meet UK obligations to the territory.

London 22nd July 2010

The Department for International Development has announced:

"The UK Government has an obligation to promote the wellbeing of the inhabitants of the Overseas Territories, who are British citizens. St Helena receives funding from the Department for International Development - over 20 million GBP per year.

"An airport should make the island self-sustainable, meaning no more funding from the UK will be needed. The other main option, a new ship, does not allow the island to become economically self-sustaining.

"The people of St Helena have twice voted overwhelmingly for an airport - first in a referendum in 2002, then in a consultation in 2009."

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said:

"It's time to stop the years of dithering and give the people of St Helena the decision they have been waiting for since an airport was first promised by the Government in 2003.

"But these are tough times and we need to make sure we get the best deal for the UK taxpayer as well as for the people of St Helena.

"I believe an airport for St Helena will revitalise the island and ultimately make them self sufficient - no longer having to rely on UK funding. It will provide opportunities for tourism, business and improved access for this remote, remarkable island, and, in due course, a considerable saving to the UK taxpayer.

"We need to start treating the Saints as valued British citizens. We will build a new relationship with all the Overseas Territories, celebrating these unique outposts of Britishness with which we have such strong historic and cultural links."

See full Department for International Development web-story Airport to Revitalise St Helena

Consultation Document: Download here (247 KB)

Related article from The Independent: An airport for St Helena too late for Napoleon

15/07/2010 New UK Government confirms support for Chagos MPA

The UK's new coalition Government has indicated its intention to press ahead with the establishment of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) covering the Chagos Archipelago. The declaration of an MPA in the British Indian Ocean Territory was announced under the previous administration, following a public consultation which attracted very wide support for the measure. Responding to a Parliamentary Question in the House of Lords on 29th June 2010, Lord Howell of Guildford (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office) confirmed that "the intention to go ahead with the MPA is in place".

"The territory's quarter of a million square miles is Britain's greatest area of marine biodiversity," said Lord Howell, who went on to provide an assurance that "The territory's administration will work with interested organisations and regional Governments to increase awareness of the environmental and scientific importance of the territory."

The declaration of the new MPA does not, in itself, cost anything. However, there are concerns over funding to support management of the MPA, and to ensure that illegal fishing is prevented throughout the reserve. With regard to the cost of maintaining a patrol vessel for surveillance duties, Lord Howell noted that "The overseas territories division is in discussion with a number of foundations and charities which have offered to meet that requirement for a five-year period."

For further background to this story, see below "Chagos Marine Protected Area announced" article from 01/04/2010.

01/04/2010 Chagos Marine Protected Area announced

Several notices here (see the item below dated 11/11/2009) and in Forum News (most recently on the front of issue 35) have reported the public consultation by UK Government about a Marine Protected Area for the Chagos Archipelago (British Indian Ocean Territory). On 1st April 2010, UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced the creation of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the British Indian Ocean Territory. This will include a 'no-take' marine reserve where commercial fishing will be banned. The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) consists of 55 tiny islands which sit in a quarter of a million square miles of the world's cleanest seas.

The full announcement is available, as is the report of the Consultation Facilitator.

31/03/2010 UKOTs/CDs and World Heritage Sites

Sites designated under the World Heritage Convention are of 'outstanding universal value' for their cultural or natural heritage or both.

There are 28 World Heritage Sites (WHSs) designated by UK, but only 4 are for natural features and one for mixed cultural and natural. Only 3 of the 28 are in UK Overseas Territories (2 natural: Henderson Island, Pitcairn; Gough & Inaccessible Islands, Tristan da Cunha; and one cultural: Historic Town of St George and Related Fortifications, Bermuda) and none in the Crown Dependencies.

In late 2008/early 2009, the Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) consulted on issues relating to the World Heritage Convention. UKOTCF had made a submission (23 February 2009), raising points relevant to UKOTs/CDs. The report of DCMS's consultants, World Heritage for the Nation: Identifying, Protecting and Promoting our World Heritage (Kirsty Norman, Centre for Applied Archaeology, UCL, December 2009), was published in December 2009. Some extracts from this:

2.6 POLICY FOR WORLD HERITAGE IN THE UK OVERSEAS TERRITORIES (OTs) and CROWN DEPENDENCIES (CDs)
The Review has highlighted the fact that policy issues for the OTs and CDs are rather different to those for mainland UK Sites.
It is felt that:
- WH status has particular importance to the OTs/CDs, which are easily overlooked, both in the UK and internationally.
- the natural and cultural heritage of the OTs is often very distinctive from, located far away from, and (particularly in the case of biodiversity) of greater international importance than that of the 'domestic' UK. The arrangement by which potential WHSs in the OTs and CDs are nominated under the UK Tentative List is in some respects seen as problematic, as it may not fully take into account the different context that applies in these territories, in particular with regard to protection regimes.
- the concept of managing UKOT sites as if they were WHSs has been advanced, and even enshrined in relevant documents, for South Georgia and Chagos archipelago.
However,
- of the over £268 million allocated to WHSs since 1994, none has been allocated to Sites on the UKOTs
- it was felt that DCMS is spending very little on Sites on the OTs because it believes that they are the responsibility of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The FCO, however, has little biodiversity expertise and few resources to support conservation work.

7.3.3 The Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies
It was pointed out that the OTs and CDs are a special case, with natural Sites in the OTs urgently requiring increased funding for their management because of problems of invasive alien species. OT administrations such as Tristan de Cunha and Pitcairn Island do not have the budgets to deal with these problems. Without these resources, it was felt that there is the real possibility that Sites will be eligible for listing on the WH in Danger List.
It was suggested that:
- there should be increased resources allocated to the OTs through the opening up of National Lottery funds, not currently available to them.
- confusion in the lottery bodies between UKOTs/CDs (which are UK territory) and Commonwealth countries (which are not) needs to be addressed.


In January 2010, the UK Government made a response: World Heritage for the Nation: Identifying, Protecting and Promoting Our World Heritage .

UK can nominate up to 2 sites per year, but plans to do much fewer than this. No site can be put forward for WHS status unless it is on the nation's 'Tentative List' (TL). UK last revised its TL in 1999, and now proposes to issue a new TL in 2011. In order to be considered for this, an application form needs to be completed. These forms and guidance became available in mid-March 2010, and must be returned by 11th June 2010. This short time-slot, following over a year's review by Government, does not of course allow much time for hard-pressed personnel in UKOTs and CDs to address the under-representation of sites in their territories. It should be noted too that sites on the 1999 TL which have not yet been designated need to re-apply to stay on the new TL. This includes 2 proposed sites in the UKOTs, both cultural (Fountain Cavern, Anguilla; The Fortress of Gibraltar).

01/02/2010 FERA announces Free Plant Pest Identification Service for UKOTs

The UK's Food & Environment Research Agency (FERA) has announced a proposed free Invasive Plant Pest Identification Service for Anguilla, BVI, Cayman, Montserrat, TCI and the Falklands. The primary aim of this project is to help protect the rich biodiversity and agricultural production in the UKOTs concerned, which are recognised as being at risk from invasive species. A recent example was the accidental introduction of the Pine Tortoise Scale to the Turks & Caicos Islands, where this insect has devastated the National Tree, the locally endemic Bahamas Pine.

Accurate and rapid identification is fundamental to the enforcement of quarantine measures to prevent the introduction of (or to effectively control) invasive plant pests. The project will be led by plant quarantine entomologists at FERA who, working with the Pest and Disease Identification Team, provide diagnostic and training services for the England and Wales Plant Health Service, and for a wide range of other customers. The Entomology and Nematology sub-teams have a wealth of experience and expertise in the identification of all plant-feeding insect orders, plant-feeding mites and plant-parasitic nematodes.

The initial phase of the project is to make an assessment of the current diagnostic capabilities and needs of each participating territory. The project will therefore require close collaboration between FERA and the relevant government authorities and conservation bodies. It may be possible to extend coverage to other UKOTs in due course.

FERA is seeking initial expressions of interest in receiving such support from stakeholders in the environmental and agricultural sectors in Anguilla, BVI, Cayman, Montserrat, TCI and the Falklands. Interested parties will ten be involved in a brief survey to assess current diagnostic capabilities and needs.

Expression of interest to: sharon.reid@fera.gsi.gov.uk

Further details can be found at: Defra Identification Service

25/01/2010 Montserrat's Soufriere Hills Volcano releases pyroclastic flows

The Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) reports that "at 2:49 pm on Friday 8th January 2010 a large pyroclastic flow forming event occurred at the Soufriere Hills volcano". Consequently most of the south of the island has been put on high alert with a hazard level 4 (level 5 being the highest) although no residents have been evacuated and there have been press releases by the tourist office.

The MVO are giving a daily update to a local radio station. For more information you can access the radio station ZJB radio Montserrat www.zjb.gov.ms at 16:00 Local time (20:00 UTC) for a daily update on recent activity.

The Caribbean Net News reported that:

"The island came to a temporary standstill as everyone took in the sight of the massive ash cloud that exploded but amazingly did not send much ash and no ballistic material into inhabited areas. Several residents remarked that they had not seen an ash cloud that broad since the early days of the volcano's reawakening in the mid 1990s."

The recent volcanic activity in Montserrat began in 1995, the Soufriere Hills volcano later depositing ash across much of the southern half of the island, causing massive environmental damage and resulting in many Montserratians leaving the island temporarily. Since then, people have started to return, but the habitable area is restricted to the northern third of the island, and occasional volcanic activity continues, as this report indicates. The safe zone is, indeed, safe for residents and visitors, with careful permanent monitoring of the volcano by a team of scientists at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.

On the 25th January 2010 The Government of Montserrat's website announced:

"A Specially Vulnerable Area- made up of Zones A, B, C, F, T and U. It has been created to enable the preparation of precautionary plans for residents of communities in the affected area. The Specially Vulnerable Area was established when His Excellency the Governor, Peter Waterworth, signed an order under section 15 of the Disaster Preparedness and Response Act following a meeting of the National Disaster Preparedness, Response and Advisory Committee (NDPRAC) on 21st January 2010. Despite the creation of the Specially Vulnerable Area, NDPRAC has decided to maintain the hazard alert at Level 4 with entry restrictions remaining unchanged."

More information on the volcanic activity and a map of the island zones can be found on the Montserrat Volcano Observatory website: www.montserratvolcanoobservatory.info

Caribbean Net News Link:www.caribbeannetnews.com

Government of Montserrat website: www.gov.ms

25/01/2010 UK Prime Minister's Office responds to petition on rare birds and animals in the UK Overseas Territories

London, 22nd January 2010

In response to a petition calling for greater support for conservation in the UKOTs, and highlighting the plight of seabirds on Gough Island, where invasive rodents are taking a terrible toll, the Office of the UK Prime Minster replies:

"Responsibility for environmental conservation in the Overseas Territories (OTs) has been devolved to Territory Governments. However, the British Government recognises that many Territories lack the financial and technical resources to manage on their own and works alongside OT Governments to provide support and assistance in areas where the territories need help."

The Prime Minister's Office goes on to outline the level of government assistance that already exists in support of nature conservation in the UKOTs such as: the £1million OTEP fund jointly managed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for International Development (DfID) and the Challenge Fund supported by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) which is an earmarked fund for the UKOTs under the pre-existing Darwin Initiative which was announced at the UKOTCF conference in June 2009. The response goes on to highlight specific funding that has been directed to preliminary work to address the impacts of invasive species on Gough Island.

In a final statement they conclude that:

"We [the UK Government] are now better placed than we have been for many years to help the UKOTs address the environmental challenges that they face."

Mike Pienkowski (UKOTCF's Honorary Executive Director) said:

"There have been recent, welcome improvements in UK Government funding for conservation work in the UKOTs, including the Darwin Challenge Fund. However, it is important that existing funding schemes, such as OTEP, are maintained, and there remains a major gap in available funding, particularly for large-scale projects like those required to tackle invasive species."

To read the full response visit www.number10.gov.uk

07/12/2009 Overseas Territories Challenge Fund

The intention to establish a new funding mechanism for UK Overseas Territories under the UK Government's Darwin Initiative was first announced at the UKOTCF-organised conference in the Cayman Islands. Speaking at the conference in June 2009, Huw Irranca-Davies (UK Minister for the Natural and Marine Environment, Wildlife and Rural Affairs) said that a "Challenge Fund" would be established which was "intended actively to recognise the specific geographic and resource constraints affecting the UK's Overseas Territories aimed at giving Overseas Territories the best chance to secure a significant share of the substantial funding available under the Darwin Initiative".

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has now released details of the new Darwin Initiative Overseas Territories Challenge Fund. This fund offers an opportunity for UK Overseas Territories, either on their own or in partnership with institutions from the metropolitan UK or other UKOTs (including Crown Dependencies), to carry out longer-term and more ambitious scoping projects than under Darwin's usual Scoping Award mechanism. The new approach is designed both to help assess the likely degree of success of a potential main project for one or more UKOTs, and to allow for some pilot implementation work as well. This is intended to ensure that potential main projects are better grounded, and have a much greater chance of sustained success.

Guidance notes
Application form

Applications must be submitted by Friday 19th February 2010. For further details on the application process see http://darwin.defra.gov.uk

07/12/2009 Launch of International Year of Biodiversity-UK

25th November 2009, Natural History Museum, London

2010 has been designated the International Year of Biodiversity, and countries around the world are developing initiatives and partnerships to raise awareness. Huw Irranca-Davies MP, Minister for Marine and Natural Environment, used the Cayman Islands Blue Iguana recovery project as an example of how an iconic species can be used to promote biodiversity and convey its importance to the general public, during an interview with the Guardian to mark the launch of the International Year of Biodiversity-UK (IYB-UK).

Asked whether people really understand what biodiversity is, Mr Irranca-Davies said "We've got to find ways to communicate this in a way that really matters to people. People get very excited about iconic species, particularly when they're large species; the great whale, the tigers of this world or even, where I was recently in the Cayman Islands, looking at the Blue Iguana and how [work on] that led to habitat re-creation".

In his speech at the IYB-UK launch, the Minister referred to the new Overseas Territories Challenge fund, which aims to support conservation projects in the UK Overseas Territories as part of the UK Government's Darwin Initiative, following the announcement he made earlier this year at the UKOTCF-organised conference in the Cayman Islands. It was during his visit to participate in the conference that Mr Irranca-Davies saw first-hand the work being undertaken by Fred Burton and others to further the conservation of the Blue Iguana, which is known only from the island of Grand Cayman.

For more information on IYB-UK, visit: www.biodiversityislife.net

Press release on the launch of IYB-UK: Download [178KB]

Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), key note speech: Download [234KB]

Listen to Guardian podcast: (Huw Irranca-Davies interview at 30-34 minutes)

11/11/2009 Establishing a Marine Protected Area in the British Indian Ocean Territory: Public Consultation

The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, has announced a Foreign and Commonwealth Office consultation which will assess whether a Marine Protected Area is the right option for the future environmental protection of the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Mr Miliband announced: "In March 2009, the Chagos Environment Network presented their vision of The Chagos Archipelago: its Nature and the Future which advocates the creation of one of the world's greatest natural conservation areas. This is a remarkable opportunity for the UK to create one of the world's largest marine protected areas and double the global coverage of the world's oceans benefiting from full protection.

We want to use this consultation to help us assess whether a marine protected area is the right option for the future environmental protection of the British Indian Ocean Territory. This document explains the issue on which we would like your views, and the ways in which you can send them to us. I strongly encourage you to participate in this consultation.

William Marsden, Chairman of the Chagos Conservation Trust, said "Britain has a rare opportunity to protect this marvelous, yet fragile, natural environment, by creating a conservation area comparable in importance with the Galapagos Islands or the Great Barrier Reef and of great benefit for people. We hope it will be very widely supported."

Alistair Gammell of the Pew Environment Group added "Establishing a large-scale protected area for the Chagos Islands and its waters would be a conservation legacy almost unrivalled in scale and significance anywhere in the world's oceans. The UK has the unique opportunity to protect an entire ecosystem and its marine life.

If the proposed Marine Protected Area is established, around half of the highest quality coral reefs in the Indian Ocean would be safeguarded. If the entire proposed area were to be declared a no-take zone, this would establish the world's largest site with that status, more than doubling the global area with full protection.

Details of how to respond to the consultation (which closes on 12 February 2010) can be found in the full document here [PDF 866KB, new window]

Copies of The Chagos Archipelago: its Nature and the Future are available from the Chagos Conservation Trust: www.chagos-trust.org

08/10/2009 Green Turtle skips non-British Caribbean nations on her month-long trip

An adult green turtle has been tagged and tracked for over 550 miles in Caribbean waters and has been seen to avoid islands which are not UK Overseas Territories. Beginning her journey in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Suzie then travelled to the coast of the British Virgin Islands and on to Anguilla, while seeming to avoid Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Peter Richardson, of the Marine Conservation Society, one of the research partners said: "This is the first time that turtles from Turks and Caicos have been tracked and we didn't know where they would go. The first part of her journey was against the current, so she wasn't being carried. The mating season is almost over, so we have to assume she's heading to feeding grounds, but it could be that she's a very late breeder. We'll only find out by continuing to track her movements".

Suzie was fortunate to avoid areas such as Haiti and the Dominican Republic, as they offer little in the way of protection from fishermen. In June, scientists bought her freedom from local fishermen in Turks and Caicos where she was legitimately caught as her 40 inch shell measured more than 20 inches long. Upon arrival in the British Virgin Islands she was protected, as capture of turtles with a shell greater than 24 inches long is only permitted between December and May. She was also safe when reaching Anguilla, which has imposed a 15 year total ban on capture of turtles in order to allow populations to recover.

See further reports of this story:

Read full Times article here
Read full Metro article here
Read full BBC article here

Find out more about Suzie

Track Suzie's movements at SEATURTLE.org
Marine Conservation Society website www.mcsuk.org

29/09/2009 British and Mauritian Governments discuss Marine Protected Area in British Indian Ocean Territory

Port Louis on Tuesday 21 July 2009

The Mauritian and British Governments met for the second round of talks on the Chagos Archipelago and British Indian Ocean Territory. The delegations were led by Mr S C Seeballuck, Secretary to Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service, Mauritius and Mr Colin Roberts, Director of Overseas Territories Department, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The purpose of the meeting was to resume dialogue between Mauritius and the United Kingdom on the Chagos Archipelago and British Indian Ocean Territory.

During the discussion the British delegation proposed that consideration be given to preserving the marine biodiversity in the waters surrounding the Chagos Archipelago and British Indian Ocean Territory by establishing a marine protected area in the region. The Mauritian side welcomed, in principle, the proposal for environmental protection and agreed that a team of officials and marine scientists from both sides should meet to examine the implications of the concept with a view to informing the next round of talks that will take place in October. The UK delegation made it clear that any proposal for the establishment of the marine protected area would be without prejudice to the outcome of the proceedings at the European Court of Human Rights.

For the full communique Download here (16.1kb

07/09/2009 Cayman Wildlife Rescue announces parrot deterrent device a success.

The Grand Cayman Parrot, Amazona leucocephala caymanensis, and the Cayman Brac Parrot, Amazona leucocephala hesterna, are two subspecies of the Cuban parrot which are endemic to the Cayman Islands. The parrot is considered so precious to the Cayman Islands that it was made the National Bird. Sadly, it has become a victim of the development that has cleared much of its natural habitat. Increasingly forced to feed on farmland, the parrot can devastate mango crops, and it is believed that some of these iconic birds have been shot by farmers simply protecting their livelihoods.

Exciting work has begun, led by Cayman Wildlife Rescue, a Programme of the National Trust, to discourage the parrots from damaging crops. The project manager, Alison Corbett, has been working very closely with local farmers to find a solution which benefits them and protects the parrot population. In visiting local farmers here I have seen the true devastation the parrot has on the crop. These farmers work hard, battling many issues and I hated that Cayman's National Bird was considered by most to be a pest. I knew there were solutions out there, we just needed to try some alternatives.

As habitat for the parrots becomes more fragmented, so does the pressure on them to find food, often leading them to the farmers' fields where they can feast in abundance. The Bird Squawker works by broadcasting predatory hawk calls, parrot alarm calls and gun shots in a random pattern, so that the birds do not become habituated to the sounds, and uses the birds' instinctive fear of these noises to keep them away from areas where they might come into conflict with humans. This device has the potential to succeed in other situations, and hopefully will ensure a healthy population of parrots in the Cayman Islands for future generations to enjoy.

The Bird Squawker can be purchased from a Florida based company called Bird Busters. General enquiries can be made to jackwagner@birdbusters.com

Read full press release

National Trust for the Cayman Islands

07/09/2009 Pitcairn supports whale protection

The Governor of the Pitcairn Islands recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to protect whales and dolphins in the Pacific region.

The signing which follows a unanimous agreement by the Pitcairn Island Council took place at the second meeting of signatories to the Convention of Migratory Species MOU for the Conservation of Cetaceans and their Habitats in the Pacific Islands region held in Auckland on 28-29 July 2009.

Governor Fergusson said "Notwithstanding Pitcairn's small size and limited resources, this is an exciting opportunity for us to signal our support for the conservation of whales and dolphins in the region, to share information and gain from the knowledge and expertise of neighbouring countries".

Humpback whales are thought to have started migrating to the Pitcairn Islands around 15 years ago and its waters are used as a calving ground during the austral winter. A survey in July/August 2007 revealed around 60 sightings of single Humpbacks, mothers and calves. There have also been sightings of pilot whales and other species. It is hoped that contacts with other MOU signatories including Australia and New Zealand will assist in follow-up surveys and exploring opportunities for responsible whale-watching as part of a developing tourism industry on Pitcairn.

18/06/2009 Cayman Conference: UK Minister announces funds for conservation in UKOTs

At the UKOTCF-organised Conference in Grand Cayman, UK Biodiversity Minister Huw Irranca-Davies announced plans for ear-marked funding and a new "Overseas Territories Challenge Fund" as part of the UK Government's Darwin Initiative.

The conference warmly welcomed this announcement, but called on the UK Government to do more to help meet the urgent environmental challenges faced in the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.

Read full article

28/04/2009 Nonsuch Island: first cahow hatchling since 1620s

The Bermuda petrel (cahow), Pterodroma cahow, is endemic to Bermuda and has been adopted as the national bird. The cahow was one of the earliest victims of invasive species introduced by European explorers. Pigs released by passing Spanish sailors destroyed most of the cahow population in the sixteenth century, years before human settlement. It remains one of the rarest seabirds in the world, but was thought to be extinct (having last been seen in the 1620s), until being rediscovered in 1951. Just 17 pairs were found, nesting on some of the smallest and most remote rocky islands at the eastern end of Bermuda.

Pioneering conservation and ecological restoration work, led for years by Dr David Wingate, ensured the survival of the cahow on Bermuda, and began the slow task of restoring six-hectare Nonsuch Island to a condition suitable for the species. Cahows nest in deep rock or soil burrows, and most of the tiny islands where the bird persisted lacked enough soil to support sufficient nests. Artificial concrete burrows were installed, and almost 70% of the 86 pairs of cahows currently nesting use these structures. Over a number of years, work on Nonsuch Island eliminated rats and other introduced predators, and restored the natural vegetation.

Cahows visit Bermuda only to breed, returning to the exact spot where they were born, and live most of their lives over the open ocean. When a young cahow leaves the nest, it spends three or four years at sea before returning to land. Individual birds are relatively long-lived, and can exceed 40 years in age, but each nesting pair can produce just one egg per year, of which roughly half produce a chick.

Between 2004 and 2008, 105 cahow chicks were translocated to Nonsuch Island, and hand reared in burrows until they fledged and flew out to sea. In 2008, the first of these returned to Nonsuch as fully grown birds, and were seen prospecting for nest sites. In 2009, the first breeding pairs (at least seven) established nests on the island. Although cahows rarely produce chicks in the first year of nesting, one pair succeeded.

The first chick to be born on Nonsuch Island for nearly 400 years has been named Somers in honour of Sir George Somers, whose shipwreck in 1609 marked the beginning of the permanent settlement of Bermuda. The Nonsuch success may have come just in time. The tiny islands where the cahow survived in small numbers are increasingly threatened by erosion accelerated by hurricanes and by sea level rise, resulting in the flooding of the lowest lying nest burrows. However, Nonsuch is big enough potentially to support thousands of pairs of cahows, with enough soil for them to excavate their own nest burrows.

Jeremy Madeiros, Conservation Officer (Terrestrial) for the Bermuda Government's Department of Conservation Services, who has overseen the Cahow Recovery Programme for the last nine years, said "I'm hopeful that next year we will see more chicks born on Nonsuch and we will then truly have secured a major victory in ensuring the future survival of this most extraordinary bird". Dr David Wingate said "I cannot think of a more perfect success story appropriate to the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Bermuda".

See further reports of this story:

Bermuda Government Full Press Release
Royal Gazette Article
Washington Post Article

For more about the cahow:

Arkive Website
Birdlife Website
IUCN Redlist Website

24/04/2009 BASKING SHARKS: A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE

A Scientific Symposium and Workshop on Basking Shark Conservation, Management
and Research will be held on 2- 5 August, 2009, in Port Erin, Isle of Man, hosted by
the Government of the Isle of Man.

The meeting will:

  1. Promote international collaboration to establish the status of basking sharks globally
  2. Develop research to assess the extent of individual movement between regions
  3. Develop strategies for improving conservation
  4. Refine approaches to management

The meeting will also provide opportunities to present research results, to share experience of conservation and management, and to develop new international collaborations and strategies for supporting basking shark conservation globally.

For further conference information please contact:

Fiona Gell fiona.gell@gov.im
Mauvis Gore mauvis@saveourseas.com or
Jackie Hall inter.tech@btinternet.com

24/04/2009 Killer fungus hits Montserrat

The chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, has been spreading around the world for the last decade, devastating populations of amphibians, in which it causes a disease known as chytridiomycosis. Some frogs and related species have been driven to extinction or dramatically reduced in numbers as a result.

The island of Montserrat is home to many rare and threatened species. One of these is Leptodactylus fallax, a frog known locally as the mountain chicken. Its meat is said to taste like poultry (hence the name), and the species has already come under pressure from hunting, the affects of Montserrat's active volcano, and invasive species such as rats. It is classified on the IUCN's 2008 Red List as Critically Endangered. One of the world's largest frogs, weighing around a kilogram, the mountain chicken is now known only from Montserrat and the neighbouring island of Dominica, having already been lost from other parts of the Caribbean.

The chytrid fungus was first reported in Dominica in December 2002. In little over a year, around three-quarters of the mountain chicken population there had been wiped out. Conservationists were afraid that the disease would spread to Montserrat on frogs accidentally introduced with fruit or other imported consignments. When reports of dead frogs were recently received from Montserrat, it was the lab established in Dominica by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), with support from the Darwin Initiative, that confirmed the diagnosis that everyone had feared- chytridiomycosis. Dr Andrew Cunningham from ZSL's Institute of Zoology said "If this was killing mammals or birds in the same way that it's killing amphibians, millions and millions would have been spent on it".

Scientists from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust are working with Departments of the Montserrat Government to survey the impact of the disease on Montserrat's mountain chicken populations, and to remove healthy frogs into captivity. These individuals will form the nucleus of a disease-free population.
Prof John Fa, Durrell's Director of Conservation Science, said "We have a major commitment to this species and biodiversity on the island. Now that chytrid is there, this is a major setback and, if evidence from other isolated populations is anything to go on, we have to act very fast indeed".

See further reports of this story:
Durrell News
BBC News

For more on chytridiomycosis and the chytrid fungus:
Amphibian Ark
IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group

For more on the biodiversity of Montserrat:
Durrel Library

06/04/2009 New Nature Reserve for Critically Endangered Blue Iguana in the Cayman Islands

Blue Iguanas have suffered a catastrophic decline as humans settled the land. By 2002 less than twenty-five wild individuals remained. In 2002 the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme (BIRP) was launched, expanding from early captive breeding efforts by the National Trust for the Cayman Islands which started in 1990. Still operating under the aegis of the National Trust, but partnering with the local Department of Environment and the QE II Botanic Park, the BIRP has achieved remarkable progress over the last seven years, bringing the wild population of Blue Iguanas from functional extinction in 2002, to some two hundred and fifty in the wild by 2009.

Supported also by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the International Reptile Conservation Foundation, the BIRP first completed a pilot restoration of wild Blue Iguanas in the QE II Botanic Park on Grand Cayman, developing and testing techniques for successful releases. Then the Programme embarked on large-scale population restoration in the Salina Reserve, a 625-acre National Trust protected area in north-eastern Grand Cayman. Only 14% of the Reserve area is suitable Blue Iguana habitat, which severely limits the extent to which a self-sustaining wild population of Blue Iguanas can be restored there.

If the Cayman Islands are successful in adding some adjacent land to the new protected area, there may soon be enough Blue Iguana habitat available to raise the wild Blue Iguana population to a level that can be self-sustained in the long term. From a scenario of little hope in 2002, the BIRP and its partners are now in sight of the kind of success that is all too rare in the world today. The Grand Cayman Blue Iguana can be saved from extinction, and in a few more years the Cayman Islands may be able to boast that they have achieved just that.

For further information visit the BIRP website: www.blueiguana.ky

01/04/2009 Major implications for land & heritage in report of TCI Inquiry into possible corruption

Interim Report, published on 16th March 2009, of the Turks & Caicos Islands
Commission of Inquiry into Possible Corruption or other Serious Dishonesty in Recent
Years of Past and Present Elected Members of the Legislature
Commission of Inquiry Report

UK Government takes steps to suspend TCI constitution
Read article

Turks and Caicos Islands Governor's statement
Read Statement

Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution (Interim Amendment) Order
Read Order

31/03/2009 Scientific Meeting - The climate change threat to corals
Reef-building corals, however, are in trouble. Overfishing of reef associated species, destructive fishing practices, coastal development and pollution have severely degraded reefs worldwide and significantly decreased their resilience to disease and the impacts of climate change. In 1998 the world's first mass-bleaching event occurred, killing in one stroke an estimated 16% of all the world's coral reefs. Increasing global temperatures resulting from increases in anthropogenic CO2 and other greenhouse gases means that the frequency of such events will increase in the next 50 to 100 years.
The oceans are also absorbing much of this excess CO2, making them more acidic and lowering the concentration in seawater of aragonite, the form of calcium carbonate that corals build their skeletons from. This is already reducing the rate of reef growth and is likely to severely impact both tropical and deep-sea coral reefs in the near future.

Leading experts will present the latest findings on the current state of reef-building corals and coral reefs and what must be done now to save them for future generations.

Organised by Paul Pearce-Kelly, Senior Curator, ZSL and Dr Alex Rogers, Institute of
Zoology, ZSL.
Talks: Speakers TBC.
Download the dinner booking form here

The talks are free and open to the public (no advance booking or registration required). Talks will begin at 6.00pm; doors open at 5.15pm and seats will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis. A dinner with the speakers will follow this Scientific Meeting and places must be booked in advance.

Further Information: Joy Hayward,
Scientific Meetings Coordinator,
Zoological Society of London, Regents Park,
London
NW1 4RY.
Tel:+44 (0)20 7449 6227.
Fax: +44 (0)20 7449 6411.
E-mail: joy.hayward@zsl.org.

Related links Zoological Soceity of London

The UKOTCF is a Registered Charity (1058483) - keen to develop partnerships with business or commercial organisations