RSPBSCOTLAND HOLYROOD NEWSLETTER ch · PDF file Kelp and seagrass beds in Scottish waters can...
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Bird of Prey Persecution In the past few years we have witnessed some high profile and disturbing instances of bird of prey persecution in Scotland.
In fact, since the beginning of 2010, 11 red kites, 6 golden eagles and one white-tailed eagle have been confirmed as being the victims of illegal poisoning. Two red kites, a goshawk, a peregrine and a golden eagle have died as a result of being illegally trapped; an osprey, a hen harrier, a short-eared owl and a golden eagle have been shot. Buzzards, sparrowhawks and owls have starved to death in crow traps; hen harrier and peregrine nests have
mysteriously failed; golden eagles, hen harriers and red kites fitted with satellite tags have simply “disappeared”.
The vast majority of these incidents continue to occur in areas associated with intensively-managed driven grouse moors.
Due to the nature of these crimes we cannot say whether these figures represent 5% or 95% of the incidents actually taking place.
What we can say, however, is that population surveys, scientific studies and analyses consistently show that illegal persecution is having a marked negative effect on the populations of
some of our rarest and most iconic birds of prey, notably golden eagle, red kite and hen harrier.
Indeed, the breeding population of the latter species dropped by over 20% in Scotland between 2004 and 2010.
Much has been made by a recent drop in the number of birds of prey poisoned. While it is important to reiterate the caveat that these figures only represent confirmed, detected incidents, any decline has to be welcomed.
This decline, which we must all hope is real and is sustained over the long term, has come primarily as a
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result of the enactment of legislation by the Scottish Parliament. This includes the Wildlife & Natural Environment Act (2011) which makes landowners vicariously liable for the actions of their employees.
The fitting of satellite-tags to eagles and kites has made it easier to detect those areas where this indiscriminate activity is carried out.
The enforcement agencies have caught some of the perpetrators and removed some of the illegal chemicals from circulation.
And, negative publicity has led to peer-pressure from within an industry whose reputation was being dragged through the gutter by a minority.
The placing of baits laced with poison in the open countryside has been illegal for a century. It is a shame that it has taken so long for a change to become apparent.
While the number of people engaged in poisoning may be dropping, sadly, there is no evidence that overall bird of prey persecution is in decline. Indeed there is plenty to suggest that there has merely been a change in tactics by those who wish to kill these species.
In 2012, we had three golden eagles, arguably Scotland’s national bird, as well- publicised victims of crime.
A bird was found poisoned in Lochaber in March; another bird died as a result of being illegally trapped in May; and an adult bird was found shot in Dumfries-shire in October.
While poisoning may be on the decline, there is no room for complacency when our protected birds of prey continue to be shot, trapped or have their nests destroyed.
The placing of baits laced with poison in the open countryside has been illegal for a century.R
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RSPB Scotland's Nature of Scotland Awards are designed to recognise and celebrate excellence, innovation and outstanding achievement in Scottish nature conservation. One of the highest profile award categories is Politician of the Year Award.
We are calling for all party researchers, MSPs, party staff and campaigners to consider nominating the politician they feel has contributed the most to sustainability and environmental issues in the past year.
More information is available at www.rspb.org.uk/natureofscotland. The deadline is soon - nominations should be submitted by 15th March.
A reception to celebrate the shortlisted entries will be held in the Garden Lobby on Tuesday 18 June, and the Awards ceremony will take place at a black tie dinner at a Sheraton Hotel, Edinburgh, in October.
Nominees Required for Nature of Scotland Awards
When Paul Wheelhouse announced the second report of proposals and policies (RPP2) it was encouraging to hear the seriousness of discussion and the acknowledgement that cross-party and cross-portfolio responsibility is required. Issues of this magnitude of scale and importance can only be overcome with a unified, collective approach.
The missed 2010 target should be the catalyst for decisive policy to make sure that there is no repetition of this failure.
However, RPP2 fails to show any new clear directions the government intends to travel in to make sizeable steps towards meeting its next targets. A definitive plan is required which can be easily monitored and assessed.
A comparison of some elements of the report show that ambition has actually decreased between RPP1 and RPP2.
There is still someway to go to make sure this document is the guide by which Scotland can achieve it emissions targets in the coming years. It is hoped that after the consultation results are considered, significant changes can be made.
There are positives to come out of RPP2 but, in some cases, they are just a reworking of existing commitments.
There must be improvements in the Rural Land Use policies and proposals and further mention of the potential of the marine environment to act as a carbon sink.
Second Report on Policies & Proposals Scotland needs stronger action on climate change
Kelp and seagrass beds in Scottish waters can act as important carbon sinks – protection from disturbance is required, however.
The opportunity to recreate saltmarsh habitats through a process of managed coastal realignment should also be explored. Suitable locations along our coasts and firths should be identified and prioritised for managed realignment. Efforts thus far have been down to conservation groups.
On land, peatland restoration and management work has been under way for many years and is vital to make sure that
these amazing and wild carbon sinks stay healthy.
Historic land use policies led to forestation of peatlands and the subsequent release of carbon into the atmosphere. The continued work of organisations like RSPB Scotland in places such as the Flows has shown great improvements to the health of Scotland’s peatlands.
The added funds available for peatland restoration are welcome addition to the budget.R
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With the passage of the Marine (Scotland) Act in 2010, RSPB Scotland looked forward to world class protection of Scotland’s marine life. We believed that after many years of campaigning, and many more of poor management and overexploitation of Scotland’s precious marine resources, Scotland’s seas would get the protection they desperately needed.
There can be no argument that the Scottish
Government’s plans for Marine Protected Areas are a step in the right direction, but the view from RSPB Scotland, and its 90,000 supporters, is that the process has culminated in a titanic missed opportunity.
The announcement in December of the list of proposed MPA sites was desperately disappointing. The most glaring omission is protection for Scotland’s globally important
seabirds. Despite the promises of Scotland’s g r o u n d - b r e a k i n g legislation, seabirds such as puffins and even kittiwakes - hugely declining in their northern strongholds - have been left largely unprotected at sea.
The Scottish Government is obliged, under EU regulation, to protect ecologically important areas of the sea, just in the same way it must protect
Marine Protected Areas there’s a bit missing
3 ecologically important areas on land. Scotland has a proud tradition of leading the rest of the UK, Europe and, in some cases the World, on environmental legislation. Yet standards are slipping with Marine Protected Areas.
Despite there being Special Protection Areas on land for seabirds, there is not one significant marine foraging ‘hotspot’ site protected under the EU Birds or Habitats Directive for seabirds.
There is still work to be done to ensure that MPAs protect the best of Scotland’s marine wildlife.
An SNH report, published in October last year, found that some seabirds species in Scotland have declined by 50 per cent in the last 20 years. This is due to a decline in prey species such as sandeels, thought to be caused by warming waters. Of course, MPAs can’t right all wrongs in the marine environment, but they can help shore up seabirds’ resilience to climate change by ensuring that human activities - fishing, aquaculture, renewables and other human developments at sea - aren’t exacerbati