The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS)
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.
The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS)
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.
Birds face too many threats during migration. The most serious are climate change, intensification of land use and illegal killing. Every year 25 million birds are killed in the Mediterranean region, during their migration from Europe to Africa (see the campaign for the protection of migratory birds in the Mediterranean area flightforsurvival.org). Luckily, all hunting of birds is prohibited in Gibraltar, which provides a safe haven for migrant species.
This year, 43 national partners of BirdLife International in Europe and Central Asia will be participating in the event and engaging with the public in order to educate them about bird migration.
At the end of this event, the numbers of all observed birds and participants are counted and reported via the national centres to the European centre. In 2019, SOS/BirdLife Slovakia is acting as the European Centre to process data. The results will be continuously updated on web page www.eurobirdwatch.eu and on Facebook facebook.com/EuroBirdwatch.
GONHS activities will include a bird walk up Engineer Road (starting opposite the old casino at 8am) bird ringing at the Jews’ Gate Field Centre following the walk, a bird of prey display at Commonwealth Park at 11am and seabird watching from Europa Point as from 3pm. Please join us!
GONHS Election Wish List
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
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
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.
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).
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.
For the 25th time, BirdLife International is inviting people throughout Europe and Central Asia to discover the fascinating world of bird migration on the 6th October. At this time of the year, millions of migratory birds leave Europe and fly to their wintering grounds in Africa.
With the arrival of the 2018 Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) fishing season, the Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS) would again like to state its position regarding the conservation of this species.
The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN; http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/21860/0), 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”.
GONHS urges the Government not to raise the quota later on in the season, as it did last year. Furthermore, although the introduction of regulation was a positive step in principle, GONHS believes 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.
GONHS believes that Gibraltar should lead by example in the conservation of this endangered species and as such, should explore the possibility of 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.
GONHS welcomes the Government of Gibraltar’s establishment of a Dolphin Protection Zone within the Bay of Gibraltar, in order to prohibit tuna-fishing methods that can be harmful to dolphins, and also supports the new requirement for anglers to report catches of billfish species. This should be coupled with a more realistic approach to Atlantic Bluefin Tuna conservation that is commensurate with the species’ conservation status.
GONHS notes that HM Government of Gibraltar (HMGoG) presented its plans to construct a new car park at Grand Parade at the most recent meeting of the Development and Planning Commission. Our organisation has a number of concerns regarding this proposed development, which we outlined at this meeting and in a letter to the Minister for the Environment.
The increase in parking spaces shall inevitably lead to an overall increase in traffic and emissions in an already congested Gibraltar, with the consequent adverse effects to the environment. GOG should instead be looking to encourage the public to drive less and consider either walking or using the bus service, which is free.
Although GONHS accepts that the area is currently covered in tarmac, the proposal would place two storeys where there is currently an open area that is surrounded by gardens. This is the last remaining open area until Europa Flats to the south and Commonwealth Park to the north.
We can also expect considerable disruption and air pollution due to dust and increased emissions during the construction phase, as well as noise pollution, which will inevitably have an adverse impact on wildlife within the Alameda Gardens, such as the Spotted Flycatcher, which breeds nowhere else on the Rock.
GONHS urges the Government to consider a more imaginative and environmentally friendly approach, both to the area and traffic management in Gibraltar.