7 May 2010

A month is a long time in BirdLife

By Nick Askew
World leaders have failed to deliver commitments made in 2002 to reduce the global rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, and have instead overseen alarming biodiversity declines. This is according to a new paper in the leading journal Science. “Biodiversity is still being lost as fast as ever", said BirdLife’s Dr Stuart Butchart - the lead author. The paper made for very sobering reading. Since 1970 – the year the Beatles disbanded - we have reduced the coverage of living corals by 40%, animal populations by 30%, and the area of mangroves and sea grasses by 20%. These losses are clearly unsustainable, and governments around the globe MUST act before it’s too late (watch the video). The paper showed clearly that the pressures facing biodiversity continue to increase. This was brought home with the news of a major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and another illegal hunting season underway in Malta. Audubon (BirdLife Partner in the US) experts across the Gulf Coast are monitoring the spread of thousands of litres of oil that threaten to turn the recent drilling platform explosion into a growing environmental disaster. For birds, the timing could not be worse because they are breeding and especially at risk in many of the places where the oil could come ashore. Reports of oil reaching the Chandeleur Islands mark the initial assault of the massive Gulf Oil Spill on the first of 25 recognised Important Bird Areas (IBAs) that line the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to south Florida (read the latest here). The shameful decision by the Maltese Government to open the spring hunting season in 2010 is a set back for nature conservation, which is particularly disturbing as 2010 is International Year of Biodiversity (New spring hunting season in Malta). Fortunately it’s not all doom and gloom. A recent review shows that BirdLife published around 70% good news stories on our website, and April was no exception. Malgorzata Górska from OTOP (BirdLife in Poland) awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize - often called the Nobel Prize for the environment – for leading a successful campaign which stopped a road being built through Poland’s precious Rospuda Valley (watch the video). Congratulations to everyone that was involved. Working on the high seas to protect seabirds, BirdLife and WWF South Africa recently achieved a major conservation success by improving the methods used by commercial fishermen in the south-east Atlantic Ocean to avoid killing seabirds (South Atlantic becomes more seabird-friendly). This critical region for seabirds is now a much safer place for them. And last, but definitely not least, we all joined in to celebrate 25 years of The Conservation Leadership Programme (watch the video). Since it was conceived and initiated by BirdLife International back in 1985, the CLP has gone on to support 2,500 conservationists and fund over 480 projects. "It's amazing to see how the programme has grown. Here's to 25 more successful years”, said Robyn Dalzen - CLP Executive Manager. Three cheers to that!