Bay of Gibraltar Oil Spill

 GONHS notes the oil spill within BGTW in the Bay of Gibraltar on Friday, which is reported to have been caused by a valve problem on the Liberian-flag bulk carrier AM Ghent, during a bunkering operation by an unnamed bunkering operator.

Oil spills can have a devastating impact on a wide variety of marine life; pelagic, coastal and intertidal alike. Furthermore, they cause long-lasting detrimental effects on food chains and species’ biologies. Sadly and predictably, oiled seabirds are already being reported. These are always the most visual casualties of these destructive events and, even after intervention, survivorship of oiled birds is low.

GONHS calls upon the Port of Gibraltar to carry out a full and public investigation into the cause of the spill, which should have been contained if procedures were followed. If Gibraltar wants to be seen to lead on environmental matters then we cannot afford such accidents.

The Department of the Environment and Gibraltar Veterinary Clinic are working to attempt to save any birds that are found oiled. Any such birds observed should be reported to 58009620.

Bird Photography must not lead to Bird Disturbance

The advent of digital photography has resulted in many people taking an interest in wildlife through photography.  GONHS welcomes this surge in interest in photographing wildlife and birds in particular.  Any form of enjoyment of the natural environment is positive, so long as it does not prejudice the well-being of wildlife.

The golden rule of responsible wildlife watching is that the animals come first.  Bird photography must be conducted ethically, with the well-being of the birds as the primary consideration.

In recent years, GONHS has grown increasingly concerned at the attention given by photographers to regular perches and nesting sites of some of our nesting birds of prey, especially Peregrine Falcons.  In their eagerness to get better photos, some photographers have got closer to these sites than is safe for these birds.  Such disturbance could cause the birds to abandon their food and nests, even after eggs have been laid.  It is illegal under the Nature Protection Act.

GONHS urges all wildlife photographers to adhere to the law and follow a code of conduct that puts animals first.  A safe distance must always be kept from regular perches and nests, and photographs should be taken from established roads, lookouts or paths.  Anyone who sees behaviour that could result in disturbance should report this to the HMGOG Environmental Protection & Research Unit (EPRU) or the Royal Gibraltar Police.

Finally, GONHS hopes that all lovers of nature are able to enjoy the natural environment this spring, with cameras or without.  When done responsibly, this is of benefit to people and wildlife alike.

Black Vulture Rescued

What was going to be a relaxing boat ride around the Rock for Clayton Busto and his young son Jake, turned out to be an unexpectedly exciting day with the successful rescue of a young Cinereous (also known as Black) Vulture, which they found in the sea a few hundred metres just off Europa Advance Road.

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Concussed Kestrel Returned to the Wild

A juvenile Common Kestrel was handed in to the GONHS Raptor Unit on the 15 November 2019, after being found by Mr Joe Flores at Wellington Front.  It seems to have flown into a glass balustrade and was in a poor state of health, showing signs of concussion.

Kestrel Flies Again

Press Release 4 December 2019

On the 25 October 2019 a female Common Kestrel was brought ashore at the Port of Gibraltar from the visiting cruise ship P&O Arcadia. It had been seeking refuge on one of the ship’s decks after the vessel had sailed through bad weather in the Strait of Gibraltar.
 

The bird was found by one of the passengers on board and was seen to be suffering from starvation and in an extremely weak condition. It was originally handed in to staff at the Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park, which in turn handed it over to the GONHS Raptor Unit, which continued with its care and rehabilitation.
The Kestrel spent a month at the rehabilitation centre and was released on the 25th November after recovering fully from its ordeal.

Eurobirdwatch 2019 - Together for migratory birds

GONHS invites people to join in its celebration of BirdLife International’s EuroBirdwatch on Saturday 5th October 2019, in order to discover the fascinating world of bird migration. During this time of the year, millions of migratory birds leave Europe, flying to their wintering places in the south.  The event will be celebrated by GONHS and other BirdLife Partners across Europe and Central Asia, From Uzbekistan to Portugal, from Norway to Greece.
 
The overall aim of the EuroBirdwatch is to raise awareness for the needs of migratory birds at breeding areas, flyways and stopovers, and in their wintering grounds in the Mediterranean and Africa. 

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GONHS Election Wish List

GONHS Election Wish List

 

Climate Change

* Immediate action towards carbon neutrality, in accordance with the Climate Emergency declaration.

* The aims of the Coalition for Climate Action to be acted upon, with fully-effective policies on transport, development, energy, pollution and waste.

 

Biodiversity

* Assessment of biodiversity loss in the Gibraltar Nature Reserve, with management measures to halt this.

* Assessment of remaining green sites that lie outside the Gibraltar Nature Reserve, with quantification of the proportion of Gibraltar’s biodiversity held outside the Gibraltar Nature Reserve and effective measures to conserve these species.

* Preservation and enhancement of The Mount’s mature woodland habitat in a fully natural state, respecting all structures and features.

* An effective biodiversity action plan to reverse biodiversity loss at North Front Cemetery - the only remaining vestige of rich isthmus habitat - in a manner that is commensurate with its use as a cemetery by the community.

* Effective control and removal of feral cats from the Gibraltar Nature Reserve, as these pose a serious threat to native wildlife including Barbary Partridges.

 

The Upper Rock

* Improvement of signage and interpretation in the Gibraltar Nature Reserve.

* Information booklets on wildlife and heritage for visitors.

* Wardens to enforce wildlife laws, including the illegal feeding of Barbary Macaques.

 

The Sea

* Greater enforcement of conservation laws at sea.

* Protection of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna under the schedules of the Nature Protection Act.

* A clear target for the prompt completion of the Waste Water Treatment Plant.

* Increase minimum distance from the shore for ships at anchor.

 

Planning & the Urban Environment

* Tree Preservation Orders for all trees that are known to hold regular roosts of birds.

* Smart and sensitive lighting in all areas that are used as habitat by bats and nocturnal birds, and removal of unnecessary lighting where this is not necessary, further helping to reduce our carbon footprint.

* The adoption as Town Planning Policy of avoidance measures to avoid collision by birds against glass balconies and buildings.

* Greater emphasis on natural green roofs, even when solar panels are installed.

* Continued greening of urban zones including street planting, and strategies such as nest boxes to encourage urban wildlife.

 

GONHS and the Gibraltar Heritage Trust Welcome The Mount Announcement

The GONHS and Gibraltar Heritage Trust welcome the announcement by HMGoG regarding the future of The Mount and its grounds. For many years both NGOs have monitored and highlighted concern in respect to the gradual dilapidation and neglect that this important heritage and natural history site is undergoing. Over the years there have been a number of proposals made that have not addressed conservation concerns for the site. In 2015, in relation to a call for Expressions of Interest for the site, our respective NGOs came together to issue a statement laying out our expectations and concerns for the preservation of the Mount and its grounds amid speculation that the site would be sold off for private development. Those expectations remain.

We note the significance of the Government’s statement the “the site is of considerable heritage and environmental importance and after much consideration, it is clear that this cannot be married with the commercial development of the site, no matter how sensitively this is done”. It is clear that there will be opportunities for commercial aspects to arise, such as in the wedding and events market, but the investment in the restoration of the grounds and the site as required will be of a value that goes beyond what is measurable.

We believe that a project of this nature is suitable and appropriate for The Mount. The Discovery Centre and Exhibition Space is a further exciting prospect that will foster skills and interests for future generations. The announcement does not so far go into much detail on the proposals for the main building or natural assets but we look forward to working with the Government of the day on the details of this project, so as to conserve and revive the heritage and environmental values of this site that has played such a key role in Gibraltar and Britain's naval history.

Note to Editors: A copy of the 2015 statement can be found here

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna - The Facts

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna - The Facts

Press Release 9th August 2019

 
The Gibraltar Chronicle published an opinion piece by Mr. Samuel Marrache on the 6th August titled “Dispelling the myths about Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (ABT) fishing in Gibraltar”. This piece came in response to a joint statement issued by The Nautilus Project (TNP) and the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GONHS), which called for the Government to reconsider and remove ABT landings altogether.
 
The opinion piece contains errors that need correcting publicly.  GONHS (as an IUCN member) and TNP have collaborated in their joint response.
 

1. International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Endangered status
 
The organisations have correctly cited IUCN, which states that Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) is listed as “Endangered” within the Mediterranean. This status implies that a species ”faces a high risk of extinction in the near future”, with the assessment for the species stating that it “has become rare relative to historical levels because of massive overfishing” (IUCN Red List, Faillettaz et al. 2019). Mr Marrache’s article states that ABT are “nowhere near critically endangered”. Neither GONHS nor TNP have ever said that the species is listed as critically endangered.
 
The IUCN, of which the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Climate Change (DEHCC) is also a member, is the globally recognised authority on these matters. It uses available scientific peer-reviewed papers as the basis for its assessments.
 
The author references Species+ incorrectly, as Species+ is an online search engine for species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is a HM Customs issue and not relevant to fishing within our waters. In any case, the IUCN has been pushing for ABT to be included in CITES Appendix 1, which if included, would make international trade illegal.
 
2. The article claims that the endangered status is due to historic overfishing and that recent ICCAT data since 2010 claims that ABT have been on the rise since 2010.
 
ICCAT is a management body which is in place to regulate the fisheries of about 30 species. It considers the latest scientific peer-reviewed papers in its conferences, but there is evidence that it has historically ignored scientific advice due to political pressures (Gager et al. 2011).
 
ICCAT data is not submitted to a scientific journal nor are its papers peer-reviewed. Consequently, criticising the IUCN-assigned status as “outdated” whilst quoting ICCAT figures is unjustified at best.
 
The article negates to include sources for its assertion that stocks have been increasing since 2010. The IUCN states that ABT populations are “decreasing” in the Mediterranean (Di Natale et al. 2011) and until new data become available, the precautionary principle must be adhered to.  Anecdotal views are offered to support the view that numbers are increasing due to “magnificent conservation efforts of the past few years”, but a very recent scientific paper suggests that little is known about ABT abundance and spatial distribution (Faillettaz et al. 2019).
 
Total allowable catches (TACs) have been rising since 2010 as evidenced in 2nd ICCAT Performance Review report 2016. By 2017 the TAC was at around 22,500 tonnes, already beginning to approach the 2006 TAC of 32,000 tonnes, when ICCAT was forced to drop the quota because it was unsustainable.
 
3. Gibraltar quota assignment
 
Indeed, ICCAT quotas are not assigned on a per capita basis and yet they are not assigned by access to ABT either, as stated in the opinion piece. And surely, number of potential consumers is a more useful metric than number of potential fishermen, as it is market forces that are endangering the species. Currently, ICCAT uses size-structured population models to calculate the probability that, at a given catch quota, the stock recovers to maximum sustainable yield (MSY) levels by the year 2022. Quotas are set at the highest level of catch that would still allow a 60% (or higher) probability of recovery (Gagern et al. 2011). However, models do not include illegal catch which accounts for up to 57% on top of the set ICCAT quota, and ICCAT routinely sets quotas that exceed scientifically quantified recommendations (Gagern et al. 2011).  Against this background, Gibraltar’s quota is still extremely high when compared to ICCAT quotas for other countries, by any sensible measure.
 
4. Locally supplied tuna is better than Spanish bought tuna
 
The local sale of ABT is rampant, with people advertising it on Facebook and frequent sale by local restaurants. What would be ICCAT’s view on this?  Quoting ICCAT REC 17-07, Part II - Management Measures, Recreational fisheries and sport fisheries, “32. The marketing of bluefin tuna caught in recreational and sports fishing shall be prohibited.”. Is the answer now that Gibraltar doesn’t form part of ICCAT, whilst simultaneously using ICCAT’s quotas to justify our own?
 
5. Tuna fishermen don’t make good money from the sport
 
During the 2017 New Year Auction at Tokyo’s Tsukiji market, a 405Kg ABT was sold for $320,000 (£263,000). In the same market in 2013, a restauranteur paid £43,000 for a 230Kg ABT.
 
In Spain in 2013, a farmed, 184Kg ABT was sold for £5,200. These are not Tokyo prices, but they are tax free.
 
Finally, the amount of money spent by fishermen for recreational activities is not a factor that can be considered when planning the conservation of an endangered species.  Nor are we calling for such equipment to be discarded: GONHS has in the past called for a shift from killing ABT to tag-and-release for research purposes, which could still be carried out by local fishermen.  Both organisations continue to call for this.
 
References

DI NATALE, A. 2011. ICCAT GBYP. Atlantic-wide Bluefin Tuna Research Programme 2010. GBYP Coordinator Detailed Activity Report for 2009-2010. Collect. Vol. Sci. Pap. ICCAT, 66, 995-1009.
FAILLETTAZ, R., BEAUGRAND, G., GOBERVILLE, E. & KIRBY, R. R. 2019. Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillations drive the basin-scale distribution of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Science advances, 5, eaar6993.
GAGERN, A., VAN DEN BERGH, J. & SUMAILA, U. R. 2013. Trade-based estimation of bluefin tuna catches in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, 2005–2011. PloS one, 8, e69959.
IUCN Red List. Available: Https://www.iucnredlist.org [Accessed 08/08/19 2019]. 
ICCAT 2017. RECOMMENDATION BY ICCAT AMENDING THE RECOMMENDATION 14-04 ON BLUEFIN TUNA IN THE EASTERN ATLANTIC AND MEDITERRANEAN 17-07.
SPENCER, J. M., J.J.; MOLENAAR, E.J.; 2016. REPORT OF THE SECOND INDEPENDENT PERFORMANCE REVIEW. INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION FOR THE CONSERVATION OF ATLANTIC TUNAS (ICCAT). 

 

 

 

Increased Gibraltar Quota of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

Press Release 2nd August 2019

Increased Gibraltar Quota of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
 
With the announcement of the 2019 Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) fishing quota increase to 16.74 tonnes, The Nautilus Project (TNP) and the Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS) would like to state their joint position regarding the increase of the quota.
 
The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN; https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/21860/9331546), which is considered the most authoritative guide to species’ conservation status.   Under the scientific criteria that it uses, the IUCN considers that the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna “faces a high risk of extinction in the near future”, with the assessment for the species stating that it “has become rare relative to historical levels because of massive overfishing”.
 
Despite calls from both GONHS and TNP over the years to reduce the quota, the decision to increase the local quota makes little sense against the available scientific evidence. Furthermore, although the introduction of increased regulation is a positive step in principle, the organisations still believe that Gibraltar’s quota should be lowered to bring it in line with that of other Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic jurisdictions, all of which have proportionally much smaller quotas. This remains the case even after the latest increases in their quotas by other jurisdictions.
 
It is important that Gibraltar should lead by example in the conservation of this endangered species and as such, should seriously consider not allowing the landing of tuna, which could be replaced instead with a tag-and-release programme.  This would make sense in Gibraltar, where there is no recognised commercial fishing of tuna and all tuna fishing is supposedly recreational.

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