Tristan continues at the fore of international conservation work

UK Overseas Territories Environment Council, April 2021

Tristan conservation work in the spotlight
From Tristan Government UK Representative Chris Carnegy

Ambitious conservation projects in the Tristan archipelago were showcased at a two-day Council of environment ministers from across the UK's Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.

Held online on 28th and 29th April, the sessions brought together politicians from as far apart as Guernsey and the Falklands, Montserrat and Gibraltar. The aim was to explore experiences and challenges around protecting the extraordinary environments of the UK's worldwide family of islands.

Photos of delegates -
Above: Chris Carnegy
Right: Lord John Randall

I was joined by our Environmental and Conservation Policy Officer Stephanie Martin. Under normal circumstances Chief Islander James Glass would have led Tristan's delegation, but I was able to pass-on his warm greetings and his unarguable reason for absence: he was on Gough, working to eradicate the invasive mice that are eating alive the island's albatross chicks. There can't be many politicians with environmental responsibility who literally roll-up their sleeves for such conservation work.

Zoom view of most of the delegates

Invasive species were a key topic. The meeting heard of the importance of biosecurity: we stressed that the Gough experience shows how keeping out invasives is much cheaper than having to eradicate them.

We highlighted Tristan's Marine Protection Zone, and the linked Atlantic Guardians project. The MPZ is a great example of how a Territory can contribute to global UK ambitions as well as conserving its own environment.

Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross on Nightingale Island (Delia Davies)

The islands shared their experiences of work to tackle global warming. It's hoped that the UK Overseas Territories will be able to be part of the UK delegation at the landmark 'COP26' climate-change conference scheduled for Glasgow in November. Brexit, and its impact on fisheries, was discussed: we updated the meeting on Tristan's lobster exports to the EU.

There was robust discussion about UK funding for conservation work in the OTs. The meeting heard calls for more local control of both the process and the money.

Lord John Randall, environment adviser to former prime minister Teresa May, gave a presentation on 'species champions', leading UK figures who can lobby to protect particular wildlife. The idea could include having a UK member of Parliament who advocates for the Tristan albatross; we will explore it.

Throughout the sessions we learned of other islands' experiences, and it was good to be able to showcase the great work being done in Tristan's vast South Atlantic zone.