HC 846 Sustainability in the Overseas Territories

Written evidence submitted by Falklands Conservation

Summary

The Falkland Islands Government has published its own Falkland Islands Biodiversity Strategy 2008-18 and this is the key document that in practice guides environmental conservation work in the Islands.

Recently, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, through the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, facilitated work on environmental mainstreaming in the Falkland Islands, with a report produced in May 2012. The UK Government should support the Falkland Islands Government and other stakeholders in the implementation of the recommendations made in this report.

The UK Government should support all stakeholders in the Falkland Islands to develop a comprehensive network of Marine Protected Areas in Falklands-controlled waters (a recommendation of the above report).

Another conclusion from this report is that "current levels of funding for the environment are inadequate and are not proportionate to the benefits that are provided by it."

Hence Falklands Conservation, in order to carry out the work identified in the Falkland Islands Biodiversity Strategy 2008-18:
– Supports the new Darwin Plus fund designed for the Overseas Territories, but believes its overall budget
needs to be increased
– Wishes to see grant-aid from Defra to continue for specific projects in addition to the above
– Wishes to see continuity of the EU BEST fund for the EU Overseas Territories
– Wishes to see EU LIFE+ funding extended to EU Overseas Territories
– Believes grant-aid should be made available to support environmental education in the Overseas Territories

1. Introduction to Falklands Conservation

1.1. Falklands Conservation is an independent membership-based charitable organisation working to safeguard and increase awareness of the spectacular wildlife occupying more than 700 islands of the Falkland Islands archipelago. We are the largest conservation NGO in the islands, where all our conservation work is undertaken, currently employing ten staff in the Falkland Islands and one in the UK.

1.2. As a partner of BirdLife International, we take practical action, lead scientific research, provide wildlife rescue and rehabilitation services, and undertake outreach and education activities. However bird conservation is only part of our remit, our conservation activities in practice being wide-ranging.

1.3. Our vision is two-fold: a) The Falkland Islands are a mosaic of natural, restored and managed landscapes capable of sustaining the richness of biodiversity and habitats, including species of local, regional and global importance. b) Falklands Conservation is a charity at the heart of the community.

1.4. Our mission is: In partnership with government, industry and the global community, Falklands Conservation will engage and empower the people of the Falkland Islands to take action with us to conserve biodiversity and manage landscapes and seascapes for the benefit of nature and people.

1.5. Our principal activities are to:

Ø Undertake scientific research in the wildlife and environment of the Falkland Islands and to publish the results of such research.

Ø Conserve the wildlife and environment of the Falkland Islands and its surrounding seas.

Ø Educate the public in the principles and practice of nature conservation.

1.6. Falklands Conservation works at all levels of the Falkland Islands Government (FIG), including with the UK Representative. We have a seat on the Environmental Planning Department’s Environment Committee, the newly established Hydrocarbon Environment Forum and the Seabird Bycatch Committee. Although Falklands Conservation is an independent charity, we do receive an annual subvention from FIG that contributes to our organisational costs in the Falkland Islands and to a number of ongoing projects. This is based on a Memorandum of Understanding with FIG in which are obligations are identified as:

Ø Provide independent environmental advice.

Ø Scrutinise FIG’s environmental policies and proposals for legislation.

Ø Provide materials and resources to support environmental education within the Islands’ schools.

Ø Coordinate a wildlife group/s for the young people of the Islands.

Ø Engage the local community in conservation projects, issues and activities.

Ø Respond to small-scale wildlife emergencies.

Ø Support implementation of the Biodiversity Strategy and agreed outcomes from the 2011 Biodiversity Workshop.

Ø Curate and manage the Falkland Islands’ national herbarium and insect collections.

1.7. Falklands Conservation has engaged in many projects over the years funded by UK or FIG grant-aid; such current projects are:

Ø Annual seabird monitoring [FIG Environmental Studies Budget].

Ø Albatross demographics [FIG Environmental Studies Budget] (to support ACAP).

Ø Southern rockhopper penguin research [OTEP].

Ø Native plants programme [two back-to-back projects funded by OTEP].

Ø Impacts of Raptors on Livestock in the Falkland Islands [Darwin Challenge & now a main Darwin project].

Ø Survey of inshore dolphins [Darwin Challenge]

Ø Identifying native seed mixes for habitat restoration [Darwin Challenge]

Ø Early intervention on alien invasive plants [Defra]

Ø Survey of the new endemic plant species of Nassauvia [Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund]

Ø Producing a vegetation map of the Falkland Islands [Darwin Challenge]

Ø Feasibility of mouse eradication on Steeple Jason [Darwin/RSPB]

Ø Prioritising invasive vertebrate species for eradication [Defra/RSPB]

Ø Developing a framework for protected areas in the Falklands [OTEP]

1.8. Further information about Falklands Conservation can be found on our website www.falklandsconservation.com .

FACTUAL INFORMATION

2. Conservation action

2.1. The Falkland Islands Government has published its own Falkland Islands Biodiversity Strategy 2008-18 and this is the key document that in practice guides environmental conservation work in the Islands. Falklands Conservation was a key player in its production and this strategy is now seen as a model for the other Overseas Territories.

2.2. Although many actions identified in the strategy are underway, it has not been possible to implement them all. Examples of important biodiversity action that is not being undertaken through lack of resources are:

Ø Control and eradication of invasive species [current funds not commensurate with scale of the problem]

Ø Completion of species action plans, habitat action plans, and nature reserve plans

Ø Implementation of the action identified in the above plans

Ø Monitoring of all the nationally and internationally important species

Ø Identification of key biodiversity sites in the marine environment

2.3. Falklands Conservation fully supports the conclusions reached in the Environmental Mainstreaming in the Falkland Islands: Workshop Report 21 May 2012, published by The Institute for European Environmental Policy on behalf of the FCO & JNCC. A copy has been included with this submission for reference.

2.4. The waters around the Falklands Islands are rich in marine biodiversity, including charismatic and globally threatened seabirds and marine mammals. There are potential threats arising from hydrocarbon exploration/ commercial development, fisheries and new development/ activities inshore. Existing practice and legislation are inadequate to manage current and potential threats, to protect threatened species, sites and habitats and to establish a basic representative network of marine managed/ protected areas.

2.5. A key recommendation of the mainstreaming document mentioned in 2.3 above is to create "a coherent Marine Protected Area network that provides adequate protection for distinct areas of high value habitats." Currently Falklands Conservation is pioneering a community-based approach to protected areas on land but there is no such process currently underway for the sea. Although protected areas are not the only mechanism for achieving conservation, the Falkland Islands, uniquely amongst the developed UK Overseas Territories and all countries in its region, has neither formal Marine Protected Areas nor any marine spatial planning for developing these. This contrasts with Argentina, for example, which now possesses a network of coastal Marine Parks and Reserves, and where they are now considering designations in pelagic waters including areas abutting/ overlapping the Falkland Islands Exclusive Economic Zone.

3. Environmental Education

3.1. A key role of Falklands Conservation (see 1.5 above) is to undertake environmental education for the people of the Falklands, young and old, and we are the main organisation undertaking this in the islands. Although we get some support for this through funds from Birdlife/RSPB and other donors, we do not have enough resources to employ a full-time education officer. It should be noted that such work is ineligible for funding under the new Darwin Plus.

4. Funding

4.1. The Falklands are an Overseas Territory with a high biodiversity value containing, for example, globally important concentrations of southern rockhopper penguins, gentoo penguins and black-browed albatrosses. However a small human population of only c.2,500 people means it is difficult to raise enough money from within the islands to research, survey and manage this internationally important biodiversity.

4.2. While grant-aid is available from the Falkland Islands government, most of the necessary conservation work can only be achieved with additional grant-aid from the UK and Europe – see, for example, the list in paragraph1.7 above.

4.3. The recent combining of the Overseas Territories Environment Fund (OTEP) with the Darwin Fund to create Darwin Plus means that in practice two pots of money have been converted into one, reducing the opportunity for project funding. Although we welcome Darwin Plus, the wider remit of this grant scheme beyond biodiversity is likely to increase competition for the new fund. Evidence already suggests that the Darwin Plus fund is likely to be significantly oversubscribed. Hence Falklands Conservation is concerned about our future ability to undertake essential conservation work in the Falkland Islands owing to what, in practice, could be decreasing grant aid.

4.4. A new source of funding to the Overseas Territories has opened up through the EU BEST fund, which is to be welcomed. However, as this fund is not guaranteed into the future, Falklands Conservation would like to see the UK Government lobby for its continuation.

4.5. Additionally, EU LIFE+ funding is not available to the Overseas Territories. Again, we would like to see the UK Government continue to lobby for the extension of LIFE to the Overseas Territories, which might help address the funding gap identified in paragraph 11 above.

5. Recommendations

5.1. The UK Government should continue to support the Falklands Islands Government and its partners in full implementation of the Falkland Islands Biodiversity Strategy 2008-18, through grant-aid from Defra and also via the grant schemes outlined below.

5.2. The UK Government should support the Falkland Islands Government in implementation of the recommendations in the report Environmental Mainstreaming in the Falkland Islands: Workshop Report 21 May 2012 (Institute for European Environmental Policy, on behalf of the FCO/JNCC).

5.3. The UK Government should support all stakeholders in the Falkland Islands to develop a comprehensive network of Marine Protected Areas in Falklands-controlled waters.

5.4. Grant-aid should be made available to support environmental education in the Overseas Territories.

5.5. Darwin Plus is an excellent concept but intense competition for the available £2 million will mean that much essential conservation work will not be possible within the UK’s Overseas Territories (which contain a very high percentage of the UK’s biodiversity). Hence the fund should be increased.

5.6. The UK Government should lobby for the continuation of the EU BEST fund for EU Overseas Territories.

5.7. The UK Government should continue to lobby for EU LIFE+ to be made available to the Overseas Territories.

30 November 2012

Prepared 14th January 2013