Protection lost for species including mountain hare, adder and pine marten. Protection under threat for 300+ other species including red squirrel and water vole.
30 conservation NGOs issue an open letter to oppose a review of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which could undermine decades of work to restore and protect threatened species.
- Every 5 years the species listed in Schedules 5 and 8 of the Countryside and Wildlife Act (1981) are reviewed through a process called the Quinquennial Review (QQR). These reviews are coordinated by the UK Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).
- Many of the species currently included in appendix 5 and 8 are there because experts have recommended their inclusion either due to persecution, population decline or other threats.
- This year in a change from the normal process the QQR Review Group (consisting of JNCC and the three country nature conservation bodies; Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, NatureScot, and representatives of the non-governmental sector) has changed the eligibility criteria of species currently (and in future times) listed and therefore afforded protection by the Wildlife and Countryside Act. This change means that an animal or plant species will only be protected when it is in imminent danger of extinction as defined by the highest categories in the IUCN red listing process, or those identified as European Protected Species. This decision has been made without due consultation and to date has not considered concerns raised by NGOs.
- Large numbers of species (although the exact figure has not been quantified in the Information Pack) will now no longer be protected against killing and sale by law including iconic and persecuted species such as the Mountain Hare and Adder.
What’s the problem?
- Removal of protection will mean that these species will legally be allowed to be killed. This will enable building developments to take place with no consideration of the impacts on formerly protected species such as slow worms and water voles if a case cannot be made to keep them listed. It also means that it will once again be legal to persecute adders, pine martens and mountain hares – despite all of the costly efforts to try and conserve these vulnerable species.
- Removal of protection will mean it would become legal to trade wild-caught British species including amphibians and butterflies – which as well as directly causing population declines would also pose a huge biosecurity risk, since this could result in wild animals being moved around, and entering into captive collections alongside animals imported from elsewhere in the world. This is of particular concern for widespread amphibians that are at serious risk from Chytrid and Severe Perkinsea Infection which have wiped out populations of amphibians worldwide and have both been found in captive collections in the UK.
- Whilst very valuable, the IUCN red listing process is not fit for this purpose. It is complex and requires high levels of evidence of population trends. This in turn requires high level species surveys and analysis of the data to determine population trends at a national scale. There has been no provision made as to how this will be resourced and an assumption that NGO’s will take on the burden of this work. IUCN guidance specifically identifies automatic use of Red List categories in policy as an “inappropriate use” of the Red List; and the IUCN Red List category “Vulnerable” is a “Threatened” category, which means it is “facing a high risk of extinction in the wild”.
- The changes that have been decided by the QQR Review Group remove the opportunity to prevent species decline. Under the changes outlined we will only be reacting to catastrophic species declines.
What do we want to do about it?
We are now calling for a public consultation on the decision to change the eligibility criteria (before proceeding with the planned timetable).