A cross-party group of MPs has today accused the Government of failing to adequately protect the globally-significant wildlife of the UK’s 14 Overseas Territories.
Dr Tim Stowe is the RSPB’s International Director. Commenting on the committee’s report, he said: 'The UK’s far-flung Overseas Territories are jewels of conservation, containing hundreds of threatened species – in fact they contain 90 per cent of the UK’s threatened wildlife.
'However, rather than treasuring these jewels, we agree with the Committee that the UK Government is avoiding its shared responsibility towards the wildlife of these exotic territories.
We agree with the Committee that the UK Government is avoiding its shared responsibility towards the wildlife of these exotic territories.
'But the committee’s recognition of the Government’s failure to adequately protect this globally-important wildlife couldn’t be clearer.
Heed this warning'We believe the Government must heed this warning now and take the action necessary to: protect the UK Overseas Territories’ unique wildlife; honor its international obligations; and play its part in curbing the current global extinction crisis.'
In a previous report, the RSPB has identified that the UK Government needs to budget £16 million annually over a five-year period to ensure the continued protection of hundreds of British species. Last year Defra spent only £1.5 million (equivalent to 0.3 per cent of its biodiversity conservation budget).
There are currently 32 species of bird which are recognised as facing extinction in the UK Overseas Territories (more than on the entire European continent): 21 of these are found nowhere else in the world.
The RSPB is urging the UK Government to adopt the following points:
- Accept that it has a shared responsibility for the protection of this threatened wildlife, rather than implying that the Territories’ own Governments need to take all of the burden. For example, the Pacific Territory of Pitcairn has a human population of only 50 people, but it is responsible for more than 70 unique species and a threatened UK World Heritage Site;
- Extend the UK’s ratification of international environmental agreements to protect biodiversity and be transparent with environmental information;
- Establish a comprehensive research plan to save the wildlife of the UK Overseas Territories;
- Explore creation of a 500,000 square-kilometre marine protected area around Ascension Island, home to the second largest green turtle nesting site in the Atlantic;
- Ensure that the proper amount of funding goes to conservation projects in the UK Overseas Territories: some of the most cost-effective conservation that money can buy.