Championing Scilly’s Manx Shearwaters

Championing Scilly’s Manx Shearwaters

Derek, pictured left, with the other Species Champion award winners Kerry McCarthy (swift champion) and Peter Heaton-Jones (greater horseshoe bat champion).

As the parliamentary champion for the much-loved Manx Shearwater seabird, I was very proud to receive a prestigious RSPB award, recognising the work that is being done to protect the species on the Isles of Scilly.

The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust and an army of volunteers on Scilly have personally ensured that Manx Shearwaters can succeed and thrive on Scilly.

Scilly is one of only two locations in England where breeding colonies for the Manx Shearwater can be found but, since the birds nest in burrows, the young are at great risk from rats.

The award recognises that the Manx Shearwater has recovered more rapidly than other species of concern and this success is because people on Scilly have, for several years, cleared the litter and eradicated all the rats on St Agnes and Gugh.

As a result, the breeding population of Manx Shearwaters increased from 22 pairs in 2013, before rat eradication, to 59 pairs in 2017 and, for the first time in living memory, 43 ‘star-gazing’ chicks were recorded in 2017. The project is being recognised as a world leader in community-led island restorations.

However, there is more to do and more money is needed to clear other islands on Scilly as part of the Seabird Recovery Project, while there is the challenge to maintain St Agnes and Gugh’s rat-free status.