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2017 Press Releases
07 Mar 2017 GONHS congratulates Royal Gibraltar Police
GONHS congratulates RGP
The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society would like to congratulate the Royal Gibraltar Police on the recent arrest of three local men, for having been found in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve between the hours of sunset and sunrise (and other offences). GONHS has for some time been raising this issue with the HMGoG departments entrusted with the care of the Gibraltar Nature Reserve and we are delighted that positive action has been taken.
Regular access to the Upper Rock during silent hours can cause disturbance to both nocturnal and diurnal wildlife, and may also result in damaged habitats and monuments. The Nature Reserve Regulations prohibit entry between sunset and sunrise for these reasons, but this has the added benefit of prohibiting access to spotters involved in smuggling networks.
Persons accessing or remaining on the Upper Rock at night are also prone to using the area as a drugs or alcohol den. Apart from the danger of driving or riding whilst intoxicated, such activities often give rise to littering, as well as to the risk of fire from discarded cigarettes or reefers. Noise from loud car stereos also disturbs wildlife and is illegal. Our own Caves and Cliffs section base at Governor’s Cottage at the top of Mediterranean Road has also suffered periodic thefts and criminal damage, as it is in an isolated location, infrequently visited by police patrols. Discouraging illegal visitors during silent hours helps to reduce the risk of crime in the area.
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2016 Press Releases
07 Nov: Ban on Plastic Bags
03 October: International Bat Night
28 Sept: EuroBirdwatch 2016
19 August: GONHS Repeats concerns over illegal fishing.
07 July: EU Law to remain
17 June: Opening of the Tuna Fishing Season
24 May: Conch Rake fishing must be 'Nipped in the Bud' says GONHS
20th May: GONHS concerned about Lathbury Stadium
20th May: GONHS and ESG support Remain in EU Campaign
12th May: GONHS welcomes further protection for the Sand Slopes
5th May: GONHS Elects New General Secretary
11 Apr: GONHS supports SDDG stance on Balloons
6 Apr: GONHS welcomes end to baloon mass releases
29th Feb: GONHS redoubles efforts to end balloon releases.
Ban on Plastic Bags
The Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GONHS) has welcomed the recent petition launched by The Nautilus Project, which calls for a ban on plastic bags.
GONHS recalls its previous unsuccessful No 2 Plastic Bags campaign, during which it had joined forces with the ESG and Friends of the Earth.
The society is hopeful that there is now the political will and public support to introduce a ban in Gibraltar.
Plastic bags become widely dispersed and are then introduced into the marine ecosystem, to which they pose a serious threat.
GONHS will be reaching out to other NGOs and decision makers to ensure the success of this renewed campaign.
International Bat Night
International Bat Night takes place every year since 1997, in more than 30 countries.
Locally, the Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS) is hosting this event for the ninth year, on Thursday 6th October.
Nature conservation agencies and NGOs from across Europe pass on information to the public about the way bats live and their needs with presentations, exhibitions and bat walks, often offering the opportunity to listen to bat sounds with the support of ultrasound technology.
We shall once again be joined by our partners in the Gib-Bats Project from the Gibraltar Museum.
The event will be based in the Open Air Theatre at the Alameda Botanic Gardens, with project members on hand with ultrasonic bat detectors, through which bats’ echolocation calls can be heard. Those attending the event should also be able to see flying bats, either at twilight or as they fly across lit-up areas.
This event is suitable for all. Schoolchildren are usually the most enthusiastic participants. The event starts at 7.30pm with an informal introductory talk, which usually lasts until the first bats swoop in across the stage or over the pond.
We shall be handing out copies of a leaflet, ‘Our Amazing Bats – An Introduction to the Bats of Gibraltar’, which has been kindly funded by the Ministry for the Environment. These describe the types of bats found in Gibraltar, where and how they live, what they eat and how they catch their prey, as well as aspects of their conservation.
For further information please email firstname.lastname@example.org or ‘Like’ the Gib-Bats Project Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/GibBats and join the event there.
Press release contact: Albert Yome, GONHS email@example.com
Further information - GONHS is a Partner of BatLife Europe http://www.batlife-europe.info
This is the 20th year of International Bat Night (formerly European Bat Night) held under the auspices of UNEP EUROBATS - Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats http://www.eurobats.org
2nd October 8:00am at the Alameda Botanic Gardens, followed by a sea watch at Europa Point as from 3pm.
In its role as a partner of BirdLife International, GONHS will once again be participating in EuroBirdwatch this October. At this time of the year, millions of migratory birds are leaving Europe and flying to their wintering grounds in Africa.
This year, 36 national partners of BirdLife International in Europe and Central Asia invite people to observe migratory birds and hear interesting facts about bird migration and the threats they face during their journeys. In Europe, many hundreds of activities are planned. The events in Gibraltar will take place on Sunday the 2nd October as from 8:00am at the Alameda Gardens during the morning, where there will be a bird ringing demonstration and a bird of prey display. During the afternoon, GONHS will be observing seabirds, other migrating birds and cetaceans at Europa Point.
A study conducted by BirdLife International and published in 2015, in which GONHS participated, shows that 25 million migratory birds are being caught around the Mediterranean annually. And after overcoming that huge hurdle, most birds still have to cross the inhospitable Sahara desert and other dangers along the way, twice a year. BirdLife partner organisations in the countries involved are making it their top priority to combat this useless killing for which there is no excuse. Gibraltar is an example to the Mediterranean in this sense, as all hunting of wild birds is illegal.
EuroBirdwatch is an annual event comprising hundreds of nationally organised activities. The number of birds and participants are counted and reported to the European office of BirdLife International. Last year, 41 countries in Europe and Central Asia organised 1093 events, with more than 32,000 people turning out to watch and help count the birds, of which more than 5 million individuals were observed!
GONHS hopes that the public will be able to join us in celebrating the wonder of bird migration.
GONHS Repeats Concerns Over Illegal Fishing
The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS) has written to the Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, copied to the Commissioner of the Royal Gibraltar Police, to ask why the fishing vessel Virgen Carmen Primero, from the Puerto de la Atunara in La Linea, is allowed to fish with nets in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters close to Eastern Beach on a daily basis.
The vessel's track, which can be followed on http://www.marinetraffic.com/ shows repeated forays from it's home port into Gibraltar waters. The vessel can also be seen by beachgoers and surely by RGP and DECC vessels tasked with patrolling the area.
GONHS has asked the Minister whether there is any reason as to why this vessel appears to be immune from being stopped and arrested or reported for process for breaching Section 10 (1) (ba) of the Nature Protection Act 1991.
It calls on both authorities to enforce the law of Gibraltar at all times.
Some of the Spanish fishing boats operating with impunity today from the east side of the Rock. Photo: J. Sanchez
EU Law to remain
The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS) notes that the Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Dr John Cortes, highlighted the importance of the EU to the environment and made a commitment to continue applying such laws as the EU may make in this regard.
Prior to the EU Referendum, GONHS issued a press release together with the Environmental Safety Group, highlighting the very positive role that the EU has had in conserving European wildlife and keeping our environment clean.
GONHS is delighted that Minister Cortes has vowed to continue applying the EU’s environmental laws. Furthermore, his commitment to ensure that departures achieve better standards, not worse, is brave and progressive.
Gibraltar’s habitats, wildlife and people will be safer and healthier for it.
Opening of the Tuna Fishing Season
The tuna fishing season is starting. From Thursday 16th June to 14th October, those with a Class K licence will be allowed to fish the endangered Bluefin Tuna http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/21860/0 until the quota set by the Government of Gibraltar is filled or the season ends.
However, GONHS would like those engaged in tuna fishing to be aware that humans are not the only anglers on the sea; many seabirds such as our shags and shearwaters feed on the same bait-fish as the tuna, as do resident species of dolphins and other cetaceans.
Licensed anglers and other mariners are asked to give due consideration to wildlife and to give cetaceans and seabirds plenty of room. The birds are especially vulnerable when resting (known as “rafting”) on the water because they need time and distance to become airborne and to rest between feeds.
In the past, boats have motored through dolphins to put their vessels over tuna, in the belief that dolphins follow tuna. This practice is dangerous for dolphins and poor game-fishing practice.
In the meantime, GONHS urges the Government of Gibraltar to review data generated by fishing activity to ensure that Gibraltar has a truly safe and sustainable quota for this endangered species.
Conch Rake Fishing Must Be 'Nipped in the Bud' Says GONHS
Unfortunately conch rake fishing has recently taken place in our waters, mainly sighted on the Eastern side close to the shoreline, without any apparent action by the authorities, despite the considerable maritime assets available to the RGP and the Department of the Environment.
Aside from the political importance of having Gibraltar's nature protection laws respected within British Gibraltar Territorial Waters, we must also remember why these laws are in place.
Conch rake-fishing doesn't just remove the target species for your dinner-plate. The rakes indiscriminately remove everything in their path; destroying the important seabed habitat which the local abundance and biodiversity of our waters depend on. We must nip this practice in the bud before it can do any further damage.
GONHS once again points out that the raking of the seabed to catch any marine creature is illegal under Section 10 (1) (ba) of the Nature Protection Act 1991.
GONHS wishes to see the law to be upheld robustly and not flouted with impunity as is currently the case.
GONHS concerned about Lathbury Stadium
GONHS notes with concern that the GFA's plans to develop a football stadium at Lathbury would require the MOD to release some areas of land on Windmill Hill Flats.
Windmill Hill Flats, a site that is included under the EU Habitats Directive as a Special Area of Conservation, is an extremely important habitat that is part of the Gibraltar Nature Reserve.
The importance of the habitats on Windmill Hill Flats to Gibraltar's biodiversity cannot be overstated. Not least, the site is the stronghold for the Barbary Partridge on the Rock. Any encroachment onto the site would threaten to seriously compromise the site's ecology.
A proposed development at the site would require a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) under Gibraltar planning law and an Appropriate Assessment (AA) under European Law. These would need to consider the full spectrum of the site's ecological assets, from plants and invertebrates to birds and foraging bats.
GONHS would oppose any development that threatens the boundaries and integrity of the Gibraltar Nature Reserve.
20th May: Joint Press Release
GONHS and ESG support Remain In EU Campaign
The Environmental Safety Group (ESG) and The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS) have for decades lobbied for a clean, healthy and biodiverse environment.
We fully recognise the importance of our membership of the European Union to the environment, so that our legislature continues to meet the standards set in Brussels.
Indeed, EU Directives are in many ways considered the gold standard in environmental legislation.
The EU Habitats and Birds Directives protect our most vulnerable species, habitats and ecological formations. Gibraltar's extensive network of protected areas is due to the Habitats Directive, whereas European Law protects some of our most emblematic species, from the Barbary Partridge to the Gibraltar Funnel-web Spider.
The quality of our air and water is monitored regularly and should meet EU standards. The EU aims to ensure that the air that we breathe and the water in which we bathe are healthy and clean. Gibraltar’s intended Sewage Plant is also due to an EU Directive. Its Waste Policy and Legislation provide targets for recycling and waste management that Member States must meet, whilst it’s Renewable Energy Targets compel us to combat human-influenced climate change.
The EU seeks to tackle the most pressing environmental issues of our time, and it sets an example for the world to follow.
Gibraltar’s environment does not exist in a bubble. However intractable and politicised environmental issues can become at a transborder level, impacts and solutions can only be addressed via European Directives.
Our exclusion from the European Union would significantly set back environmental progress and protection at every level, within and beyond our borders.
GONHS and the ESG therefore strongly support remaining in the EU. In doing so, we join major environmental organisations such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the UK’s own Wildlife Trust in calling for a 'Remain In' vote.
We urge all Gibraltarians to vote 'IN' on June the 23rd. Our environment and health demand it.
GONHS welcomes further protection for Sand Slopes
GONHS welcomes the expansion of the Gibraltar Nature Reserve to the last remaining unprotected part of the east side sand slopes, which it has always advocated and campaigned for.
The area in grey is now included within the Gibraltar Nature Reserve
This designation as nature reserve of the lower part of the slopes now ensures that all of this stabilised sand dune, which is an important habitat and geological formation, is protected by law. It highlights the importance of this area to Gibraltar’s biodiversity.
The lower sand slopes were the only section of the slopes that remained vegetated when most of the slopes were covered by the old water catchment, and served as a source from which fauna and flora could colonise the restored habitat above it. Indeed, some plant species are still
restricted to this lower portion of the slopes and are found nowhere else on the Rock.
The initial omission of this section from the Gibraltar Nature Reserve raised concerns about its future, but GONHS is hopeful that its designation will now preserve the integrity of this important habitat and landscape feature indefinitely.
GONHS Elects New General Secretary
Alex Menez has been elected as the new General Secretary of GONHS, following a GONHS Council meeting held on Wednesday 4th May. GONHS Council thanked the outgoing General Secretary, Charles Perez, who has held this post for the last few years and remains on council.
Elected members of GONHS Council are Jean Paul Latin, Alex Menez, Charles Perez, John Sanchez, Jill Yeoman and Albert Yome.
Ex Officio members (i.e., heads of sections) are Keith Bensusan (Strait of Gibraltar Bird Observatory), Richard Durell (Caves & Cliffs Section), Rhian Guillem (Invertebrates Section), Leslie Linares (Plants Section head), Vincent Robba (Raptor Rescue Unit) and Eric Shaw (Marine Section).
Harry Van Gils retired from GONHS council after many years of service and was warmly thanked by his colleagues. He remains an active member of the GONHS bird section.
GONHS supports SDGG stance on Balloons
The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS) has expressed its disappointment with comments in the local press in which the SDGG is unfairly criticised for its decision to discontinue mass balloon releases.
Gibraltar has already been widely praised locally and internationally for taking the well-considered and mature decision of discontinuing this polluting custom, based on ample and sound evidence.
GONHS stands by the SDGG’s decision to stop this polluting practice and looks forward to discover what replacement celebration will replace it from this National Day onwards, which given the wealth of creative talent in Gibraltar, should be something we can all be proud of.
GONHS Welcomes End to Mass Balloon Releases
The Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GONHS) welcomes the statement from the SDGG announcing its decision to cease the mass balloon release as part of Gibraltar’s National Day celebrations.
GONHS has been campaigning for an end to this polluting practice for over a decade, together with the ESG and more recently other local organisations and individuals who have supported the campaign. It thanks all of its partners in this process.
GONHS is particularly grateful to UN Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh, himself no stranger to Gibraltar and a leading campaigner against overfishing, pollution and climate change. GONHS is certain that Lewis’s visit to Gibraltar, at GONHS’ invitation, provided the final impetus for the ending of the balloon release.
GONHS Redoubles Efforts to End Balloon Releases
Last week GONHS was delighted to host the UNEP Patron of the Seas, pioneer swimmer Lewis Pugh.
Albert Yome, who is heading the GONHS effort and had closely followed Lewis' adventures over many years, had been involved with our campaign to end mass balloon releases in Gibraltar since at least 2006*. Albert had noted that Lewis had succeeded in a similar campaign in South Africa, which had seen this polluting activity outlawed there, and so asked for his help.
We were therefore delighted when he not only offered to help, but said he would be coming to Gibraltar himself, and we set about arranging meetings with key decision makers.
The details of his visit were well covered by the media, but GONHS would publicly like to thank him for answering our call for help.
GONHS will now be working with Lewis and the ESG, with the hope of building a partnership of local organisations to achieve our goal of ending mass balloon releases in Gibraltar.
In reiterating its position, GONHS would particularly like to thank the SDGG for meeting with Lewis Pugh during his visit and for engaging with us over the past year.
Both of our organisations have a ‘G’ in our initials and we both care deeply about our Gibraltarian homeland, whether that be in defence of self-determination or of our environment.
We are lucky to have a deep pool of creative talent in Gibraltar: artists, poets, dancers, musicians and more. The challenge now is to find another way of celebrating National Day without standing on a beach wondering where what went up will come down, and what damage they will do to what.
* (Nature News -Autumn 2006) - "What Goes Up Must Come Down, by Albert Yome - In the months leading up to National Day 2006, GONHS quietly appealed to the Ministry of the Environment, asking it not to include a “Balloon Release” as part of the day’s festivities. Balloons were released; apparently it was too late to change the plans. The Ministry has indicated that it will look into the matter. GONHS is now publicly asking Government to replace the balloon release with a more environmentally friendly gesture.
Perhaps you have your own ideas for an alternative event? Please let us know at GONHS, PO Box 843, Gibraltar, or firstname.lastname@example.org"