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2014 Press releases
10 December: Coastal Protection Works Camp Bay
21 August: Mediterranean Ribbed Limpet Translocation
20 August: North Gorge Re-development
02 April BatLife Europe welcomes GONHS as a new Partner
14.03.2014 Feetham Mistaken
06.03.2014 Europa Point Football Stadium
Coastal Protection Works at Camp Bay
The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS) is deeply concerned about the ongoing coastal protection works along the Camp Bay coastline. There had been no prior notification of, or consultation on this, at least with GONHS as is customary.
These works, which have been attributed to emergency measures, should nevertheless have followed the proper procedures and should have sought advice from locally-available expertise. Although GONHS understands that the Department of the Environment has now stopped the works and will be carrying out a retrospective assessment, damage to coastal habitat may have already taken place and protected species may have been lost, as the revetment seems already to be close to completion.
Camp Bay holds a population of the endangered Patella ferruginea and hopes that these works have not compromised the survival of these individuals. The revetment also provided habitat for other protected species, such as the Date Mussel Lithophaga lithophaga.
GONHS is also concerned with the composition of the rock substrate used in the revetment, some of which is clearly not limestone. In addition to this, a range of unsuitable material has been used to fill in spaces between rocks. This will have a negative impact on the recolonisation of marine organisms in this area.
GONHS urges the Government to exercise caution and follow the correct processes when such works are carried out because, as is frequently stressed by the Government itself, Gibraltar hosts some very important marine habitats and species.
Coastal Protection worksalong Camp Bay Photos: K. Bensusan
Revetment wall includes unsuitable materials such as building debris with reinforcment bars
GONHS pleased with Mediterranean Ribbed Limpet Translocation
GONHS is satisfied with the effort made to relocate over 70 Mediterranean Ribbed Limpets Patella ferruginea, which has employed the safest solution with which to translocate this very rare and endangered species.
The Mediterranean Ribbed Limpet is possibly the most threatened marine species in the Mediterranean, with the Rock holding the healthiest and most viable population in Europe. Gibraltar clearly has a responsibility to conserve this species, which is protected under Schedule 3 of the Nature Protection Act and Annex IV of the EU Habitats Directive. Failure to do so could result in infraction proceedings by the EU.
A similar translocation programme took place in 2010 and it was from this that rates of survivorship were ascertained. The fact that authorities from other jurisdictions look to Gibraltar for information on the ecology and conservation of the species speaks volumes of the importance of Gibraltar and its experts for this Limpet.
GONHS further urges the Government to maximise the creation of new habitat for this and other marine life, and to use limestone rocks and blocks of a type that is favoured by the Ribbed Mediterranean Limpet in all new developments that border the intertidal zone.
North Gorge Re-development
GONHS notes with interest the recent Government notice of a tender for the redevelopment of North Gorge into an 'Eco Residential Scheme'.
The North Gorge is a unique site in Gibraltar, in terms of its geology and ecology. The cave/fissure systems below the site are distinct from the karstic systems elsewhere on the Rock. They tell a very different geological story to other caves in Gibraltar and should be conserved on this basis alone. In addition, the gorge habitat harbours the only known populations of a few plant species in Gibraltar, and these in turn support populations of insects that are restricted to the area. Not least, this is because the gorge habitat is itself unique on the Rock.
GONHS would welcome any move that enhances the appreciation of the site's geological and ecological interest and would oppose development that leads to further deterioration of the gorge. Specifically, GONHS has identified what it considers to be a number of red lines with regard to any proposal for the development of the site, namely:
1) An extensive geotechnical survey should be carried out before development is considered. Should any development take place, firm evidence should be provided beforehand that the works would not compromise the underlying cave/fissure systems.
2) The cliff habitat within and around the gorge should remain intact, without any stabilisation, descaling or removal of vegetation that may result in the deterioration of the present habitat. Likewise, all rocky outcrops with vegetation within the gorge should be conserved.
3) Should any development occur, the special plants at the site should be protected from the effects of the development throughout the entire process. Furthermore, a complete botanical survey should be carried out in order to catalogue and identify all species and habitat formations within the gorge.
4) There are historical records of bat roosts at North Gorge and a comprehensive survey should be carried out to ascertain whether these are still present. Should any be detected, they should be protected, including flight paths to and from roosts. Furthermore, the design of lighting within the proposed development should take the bats into account.
5) Access should continue to be granted to the public, so that people can appreciate this site's locally unique natural features. Access should also be facilitated for any bona fide researchers wishing to study the cave/fissure systems.
GONHS regrets that the restoration of this habitat back to its natural state has never been consideredand is concerned that natural features may be damaged irreparably during a construction process. It will follow the issue closely and hopes that, if the site is to be developed as an 'Eco' residential scheme, the above points will be respected and form part of the tender award process. It further urges the Government to abandon plans to develop the site if investigations raise concern about the integrity of the geological features that lie below and around the site.
BatLife Europe welcomes GONHS
as a new Partner
BatLife Europe is an international non-governmental conservation organisation built from a partnership of national bat conservation organisations that are committed to promoting the conservation of all bat species and their habitats throughout Europe.
The idea of BatLife Europe was first proposed by the IUCN Chiroptera Specialist Group at the European Bat Research Symposium in Le Havre in 2002.
Then, at the 11th meeting of the EUROBATS Advisory Committee in Luxembourg in 2006, it was agreed that the work of the many European NGOs committed to bat conservation would be enhanced by trans-boundary communication and coordination.
The UK’s Bat Conservation Trust was invited to establish BatLife Europe and accepted.
BatLife Europe has a membership of partner conservation organisations, each representing and working in partnership with BatLife Europe in its own territory.
GONHS has been active in bat conservation in Gibraltar for many years, advocating the protection of bats and their roosts, raising public awareness about bats and identifying Gibraltar’s bat species and populations. For the past six years it had participated in European (later International) Bat Night hosted by Eurobats.
Schreiber's Bat, a common species in Gibraltar. Photo: Albert Yome/GONHS
Last year it joined forces with the Gibraltar Museum Caving Unit and several UK-based bat experts and the Department of the Environment to form the Gib-Bats Project. Albert Yome, who leads GONHS’ participation in the project said, “We are delighted to have been accepted as a Partner of BatLife Europe. This will help us collaborate with other European bat conservation organisations and help us both understand our bat populations in a wider context and help us to promote their conservation and study in Gibraltar itself.
GONHS is very grateful to its friends in the GCMU, led by Stewart Finlayson, our UK colleagues James Shipman, Denise Foster and Iain Hysom and the assistance provided by Stephen Warr of the Department of the Environment.”
Speaking on behalf of BatLife Europe, its Chair, Julia Hanmer added, “We are delighted to welcome the Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society as the 34th partner member of BatLife Europe. Having such a broad partnership of NGOs representing bats from Ireland to Ukraine, and Finland to Gibraltar means we can speak up strongly for the needs of bats and influence the many people, from politicians and land managers, to planners and the public, to encourage them to take action to make a difference for bat conservation”.
In an interview with GBC on Thursday 13th March regarding the proposed football stadium at Europa Point, Opposition Leader Danny Feetham claimed that GONHS had condemned and criticised the building of a park at Europa Point from an environmental point of view, back when the GSD was in government.
This is incorrect and GONHS would like to clarify its position.
GONHS did not criticise or condemn the creation of a children's play park, which was built on an area that was not vegetated.
GONHS criticised (1) the destruction around Harding's Battery of native flora that is well adapted to the extreme conditions at Europa Point, and (2) the use of plants in the new landscaping at Europa Point that were ill-suited to strong winds and salt spray.
At no time did GONHS criticise the building of the park itself, which has provided an attractive amenity for the community.
GONHS has already stated that it appears from the design that no natural habitat will be impacted by the construction of the proposed stadium. If there is an impact, then GONHS will oppose this and press for solutions that do not affect natural habitats. Furthermore, GONHS expects that any landscaping in the area will be sensible, use only plants that can survive Europa Point's conditions and enhance the area's value for flora and fauna.
Notice to Editors: the two GONHS press releases on this matter were issued in October 2011 and can be found at http://gonhs.org/documents/PressReleases2011.pdf
Europa Point Football Stadium
GONHS notes that some interest has been expressed in its views regarding the proposed football stadium at Europa Point, including via Twitter by Opposition member Isobel Ellul-Hammond.
In her tweet, Ms Ellul-Hammond refers to press releases issued by GONHS on the 15/09/2011 and 24/10/2014, regarding Europa Point. Those press releases refer to the destruction of native vegetation around Harding’s battery and its replacement with expensive plants that would not survive Europa Point’s extreme conditions. Indeed, most have not.
GONHS has examined the plans for the proposed stadium as part of the consultation process and, so far, it appears that none of the natural habitats at Europa Point will be affected by the Stadium. GONHS has also considered other factors, such as the effect on migrating birds, and has decided that adverse effects are unlikely. That said, GONHS expects that an EIA process will still examine any possible impacts on the natural environment.
Views on the proposed stadium are varied within GONHS’ Council, but the Council has decided that these are matters of personal taste and that an organisation that aims to study and conserve Gibraltar’s wildlife should not comment on matters that, up until the present, appear to have no negative impact on Gibraltar’s ecology. GONHS will of course reverse its position if, at a future stage, it becomes apparent that aspects of Gibraltar’s wildlife will be threatened.
Furthermore, GONHS expects the Government of Gibraltar to ensure that any landscaping works carried out at Europa Point make use exclusively of native species that can withstand the difficult weather conditions at the site and enhance its value for wildlife.
2013 Press Releases
21.11.2013 Spanish fishing boat fined
01.10.2013 EuroBirdwatch 2013
23.09.2013 GONHS Concerned at NPA amendment
10.08.2013 Calpe 2013 Conference: Caves as Archives
06.06.2013 GONHS welcomes the fishing report
29.04.2013 GONHS Supports Dr Tydeman's comments
2013 Press Releases
21 November 2013
Spanish fishing boat
The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS) has welcomed the £600 fine imposed recently imposed on the captain of the Spanish fishing boat, Divina Providencia for the offence of fishing with rakes contrary to the current provisions of the Nature Protection Act 1991 (NPA).
It calls on HM Government of Gibraltar not to give in to Spanish incursions by weakening our robust wildlife protection laws and further urges the Commissioner of Police to enforce the provisions of the NPA in BGTW and on land.
GONHS also reiterates its previous request in April this year, that the Royal Navy assist those charged with upholding the law, by providing the necessary security for them to undertake their duties.
01 October 2013
European Birdwatch 2013
Saturday 5th October
The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS)
Field Centre, Jews' Gate
Upper Rock Nature Reserve
PO Box 843, Gibraltar
|5th October 2013
EuroBirdwatch13 - 20 Years for the
Migratory Birds and Their Flyways
Millions of migrating birds will leave Europe in these weeks flying to their wintering places in Africa. Birds overcome thousands of miles and many dangers along their flyways. For the 20th time already, BirdLife International invites people in Europe to take the opportunity on 5/6 October 2013 to discover the fascinating world of bird migration.
The biggest event of the BirdLife partners in Europe celebrates its 20-year anniversary. Since 1993, EuroBirdwatch has attracted tens of thousands of participants each year, sharing in diverse activities or just simply observing the birds as they migrate southwards. This year, the national partners of BirdLife International of 33 countries in Europe and Central Asia invite people to observe the birds and hear interesting facts about bird migration and threats they face during their journeys. In most countries people will find observation and information posts where everyone can share the knowledge on migratory birds and their flyways.
The majority of the migrating birds are in danger because of land use changes and climatic changes in their breeding and wintering areas and on the crucial stopovers. Therefore BirdLife Partnership is pleased by the number of people fascinated by bird migration, which is rising every year. Only joint action of many people and nations can halt the adverse trend.
For the migrating bird species the existence of suitable breeding areas in the north, saving stopovers on the flyway and appropriate habitats in the wintering regions are vitally important. The aim of EuroBirdwatch13 is to raise awareness for the beauty of bird migration and the needs of the birds taking part in it.
The European Birdwatch is an annual event comprising hundreds of nationally organised activities. On these observation posts the number of birds and participating people are counted and reported via the national centres to the European centre. Last year around 70’000 people took part in 34 countries and more then six million birds were observed on this single weekend.
In 2013 the Slovak Ornithological Society/BirdLife Slovakia is acting as the European Centre to process these data. Since 1993, the event has been coordinated by Fritz Hirt (SVS/BirdLife Switzerland) who was one of the initiators of EuroBirdwatch. Among other merits, this was one of the reasons BirdLife International awarded him the Honorary Membership in 2013. The deed of membership was handed to Fritz Hirt by Princess Takamado in the course of BirdLife International’s world congress in Ottawa.
In Gibraltar, as the local BirdlIfe International Partner, the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GONHS) will be organising several events, which are open to the public.
The first of these will be a bird ringing demonstration at the Alameda Botanic Gardens, where migratory and other birds will be caught using mist nets and then ringed by licensed bird ringers, with specific measurements being taken, before being released back into the wild.
Later, the Raptor Unit will host a bird of prey display and the unit members will be on hand to provide further information on how each bird is cared for by the unit, which in addition to rehabilitation also breeds rare birds of prey such as the Lesser Kestrel for subsequent release into the wild.
In the afternoon, observers will be at the Europa Point Marine Observatory looking for birds (and cetaceans) in the Strait of Gibraltar.
Key times and locations (all Saturday 5th October 2013)
8am-11am Bird Ringing – on top of the Nature Shop; up Heathfield Steps and left at the entrance to the Alameda Botanic Gardens.
10.30am-12.30pm Bird of Prey Display – between the top of Heathfield Steps and The Cottage.
Please remember that dogs are not allowed within the gardens.
3pm – 6pm - Europa Point Marine Observatory. Below and to the left of the Harding's Battery mound.
For further information on European Birdwatch please visit:
BirdLife International is a global alliance of conservation organizations working in more than 120 countries, which, together, form the leading authority on the status of birds, their habitats and the issues and problems affecting bird life.
GONHS Concerned at NPA Amendment
GONHS is concerned at reports that the Government of Gibraltar may be taking steps to allow fishing with nets and the raking of sea-beds within BGTW. While the amendment to the Nature Protection Act (NPA) currently proposed does not in itself allow such activity, its introduction suggests that this may be a possibility in the future.
The Society is concerned that any such action could lead to unregulated fishing continuing, given the practical difficulties of enforcement. Licensed fishing and quotas would be as difficult to enforce as the current legislation and they would accrue the additional burdens of having to run a licensing system, check boats and perhaps land catches regularly to ensure that licensees are keeping to their quotas. This appears onerous and unnecessary when Gibraltar itself does not have any commercial fishing activity.
GONHS is especially concerned that some of these fishing practices are extremely destructive to marine habitats, especially unregulated raking, and that a relaxation of fishing laws would lead to further deterioration of Gibraltar?s marine habitats. All of this would, if allowed, take place whilst ?no fishing? zones are enforced in protected areas in nearby Spain, including the Bay and Strait of Gibraltar themselves.
It urges the Government to resist allowing any commercial fishing. A temptation to do so should be considered within the context of the difficulties of policing an effective licensing regime and exclusion zones, without which we will continue to experience deterioration of marine habitats and resources. It is vital that Gibraltar's marine resources are managed carefully in order to ensure proper protection, enhancement and sustainable use of Gibraltar's biodiversity and that of the wider region.
GONHS also urges the Government to continue creating new habitats and enhancing existing ones, including increasing the extent of artificial reefs. The planned marine regulations controlling diving and fishing should be introduced without delay.
Calpe 2013 Conference
Caves as Archives
The world around us is in constant flux, but each human lifetime offers an insignificant snapshot within an enormous timescale. Even the accumulated experience represented by recorded history is but a small drop in the vast ocean of deep time. But how do we access the datasets required for detailed scientific enquiry at such an enormous temporal scale?
This year’s Calpe Conference, jointly organised by the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GONHS) and the Gibraltar Museum aims to answer this question. It will do so by exploring the full extent of information that can be gathered when caves are treated as archives of a changing planet. Gibraltar is at the forefront of some of these areas of research: the Gibraltar Museum and the GONHS Cave Science Unit are, together with their international collaborators, important players in the fields of archaeology, geomorphology and climate science. The local teams and international participants will be delivering what promises to be a far-ranging, insightful and exciting Calpe Conference.
The conference structure has been slightly modified on this occasion by having an introductory day in which speakers will address aspects of Gibraltar’s geology and caves in a manner that will be accessible to as wide a public as possible. The day will be a synthesis of all the work that has been carried out over several decades but it will also look towards the future and research into fields that we are only just embarking on now. Saturday 14th September has been picked for this day so as to allow as many people, who might be otherwise at work, to attend. The programme will continue from Sunday 15th to Tuesday 17th September, with an excursion on Wednesday 18th.
Further information and registration forms may be obtained from the Gibraltar Museum (Tel: 200 74289) or its website http://www.gibmuseum.gi. The conference, as in previous years, is free for local residents.
Editors: Contacts for further information
Dr Keith Bensusan, email@example.com
Professor Clive Finlayson at the Gibraltar Museum or at firstname.lastname@example.org
GONHS welcomes the Fishing Report
GONHS Council is pleased that the long-awaited fishing report has finally been published.
The report concludes and vindicates what GONHS has always maintained: that Gibraltar’s environmental protection laws are sound. It also states that there are insufficient data on fishing stocks and the state of the marine habitats, and in these cases the well-established precautionary principle must prevail.
GONHS is confident that once the Gibraltar Government has considered these recommendations, and includes these as an active component of the marine management plan, together with the forthcoming legislative measures, that these will form the basis of future protection and conservation that will enhance the marine environment.
We welcome Government’s plans to regulate marine recreational activities in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. We look forward to an increase in resources for environmental protection and enforcement, and eagerly await monitoring strategies that will provide baseline data of the current state of our marine resources, that will enable Gibraltar to meet its environmental obligations.
GONHS would like to thank the authors and the working group that worked tirelessly in the production of this report.
GONHS Supports Dr Tydeman's comments
GONHS has followed with interest the comments submitted by Dr Chris Tydeman to the Environmental Audit Committee of the House of Commons on the 17th April, as well as reactions to those comments locally.
Dr Tydeman has a very extensive and impressive curriculum vitae and has ample experience regarding the relationship between the UK and its Overseas Territories in his role as Chairman of the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum (UKOTCF). Furthermore, he was Chief Scientist with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and established its international marine programme. He also has extensive experience working with the EU and his conservation work has often included considerable overlap with politics, as is to be expected. He is therefore in a very good position to assess political situations regarding wildlife conservation and comment on these.
Apart from more general statements relating to the Overseas Territories generally, Dr Tydeman commented at length on a resistance to use the Royal Navy for fisheries protection in British Gibraltar Waters. The opinion expressed by Dr Tydeman, namely that the British Government values good relations with Spain far more than it does the interests of Gibraltar, is widely-held among the Gibraltarian public, so it should not come across as controversial locally. The Royal Navy’s inaction in adequately protecting local fisheries is difficult to explain in any other context, given that the Navy actually includes a ‘Fishery Protection Squadron’ that operates in UK waters and British waters around the Falklands. The Royal Navy itself states that the primary task of the squadron “is its involvement in the highly emotive and politically sensitive UK and European fishing industry” (for more, see: http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/Operations/Enduring-Operations/UK/Fishery-Protection). The Royal Navy’s failure to protect fisheries around Gibraltar does therefore raise very legitimate questions.
The comments on the role of the Governor, which have attracted much interest in Gibraltar, were not in fact submitted to the Environmental Audit Committee by Dr Tydeman. These were included in a report that published the proceedings of a workshop held by the UKOTCF in October 2012 on the subject of the UK Government’s ‘White Paper’ on its Overseas Territories. The report clearly refers to the office and role of the Governor in relation to the British Government and not Sir Adrian Johns as an individual (the report can be downloaded from: http://www.ukotcf.org/pdf/Consultations/Workshop2012Proceedings06b.pdf). GONHS does not doubt Sir Adrian’s commitment to Gibraltar, although it regrets that the Convent simply stated that Dr Tydeman’s comments do not reflect the Governor’s “public position”, rather than providing a more robust and unequivocal statement.
GONHS is extremely concerned with Dr Tydeman’s statement to the Committee that he has received “less-than-thinly-veiled hints” from British officials that his report should allow Spanish fishing in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters. If this is truly an issue of fishing, such an opinion should be based on scientific data regarding the state of our fisheries and not on wider political considerations, especially when these are taken by Britain in favour of Spain’s interests and against those of Gibraltar.
In any case, the Nature Protection Act 1991 is the law currently in force in Gibraltar and GONHS calls on the Royal Navy to assist those charged with upholding the law to do so.