BIAZA has worked alongside multiple other wildlife NGOs in writing a letter to oppose proposed amendments to Schedules 5 and 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. The letter has been sent to the relevant departments carrying out what is known as the 7th Quinquennial Review, and can be viewed below.
The proposed amendments would change the eligibility criteria for which species would be protected under this legislation, and would mean that an animal or plant species would only be protected if in imminent danger of extinction as defined by the very highest categories in the IUCN red listing process, or those identified as European Protected Species. This decision has been made without due consultation. It also fails to consider the consequences of such changes to the eligibility criteria, which would mean that large numbers of species may no longer be protected against killing and sale by law.
We are joining other NGOs in formally requesting that the QQR Review Group carry out a public consultation on the decision to change the eligibility criteria before proceeding with the planned timetable. We encourage others to share similar comms, using the details helpfully shared by our colleagues at ARG UK.
Re: 7th Quinquennial Review (QQR) of Schedules 5 and 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981)
We are writing this open letter to you in response to the decision by the QQR Review Group to change the eligibility criteria for which species will be included on Schedules 5 and 8 of 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 very highest categories in the IUCN red listing process, or those identified as European Protected Species. This decision has been made without due consultation. It also fails to consider the consequences of such changes to the eligibility criteria, which would mean that large numbers of species may no longer be protected against killing and sale by law.
We have numerous serious concerns regarding this decision and the decision-making process. These include but are not limited to:
• Section 2.3 of the JNCC statement: “It is important to emphasise that endangerment on its own is insufficient justification for recommending a species for scheduling. Many species will be endangered principally due to changes in land-use or land management leading to increased habitat fragmentation, deterioration or outright habitat loss. Such causes of endangerment do not, for the purposes of the QQR, constitute ‘direct human (‘reckless’ in Scotland) pressures’ as covered by Sections 9 and 13 of the WCA. To be recommended for scheduling, the endangerment of a species must, at least in part, be due to one or more of the direct human pressures listed in the Decision Criteria.”
This suggests that, for every endangered species, eNGOs will have to prove that a human pressure listed in the Decision Criteria is already causing endangerment. This is nonsensical as, in many cases, while human pressures listed in the decision criteria might not be a current driver of endangerment, if a species is so few in number as to be endangered, then it likely cannot tolerate any of those human pressures, whether they present historically or not. In imposing these blanket criteria and putting the burden of proof on eNGOs, the JNCC is effectively legislating species towards extinction.
• Removal of protection for a given species will mean that this species can legally 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. We recognize that in section 2.3 of the information pack, JNCC state that: “GB nationally/regionally Vulnerable species listed on the existing schedules will be evaluated by the QQR Inter-agency Group to check their conservation dependence on the protection afforded by the schedules. If their status is dependent on their schedule listing, their removal will be reconsidered.” Let us be very clear that the lack of transparency in this evaluation process prevents any reassurance here.
• Removal of protection will mean it would become legal to trade wild-caught British species including amphibians and butterflies. As well as directly causing population declines, this would also pose a huge biosecurity risk; wild animals could be moved around, and enter 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. In addition, this presents the very real risk of increased wild releases of species into areas that may not be appropriate; i.e. releases carried out without appropriate consent, research, background preparation, health screening and analyses of risk. This may in turn threaten existing ecosystems by compromising the native species and habitats in addition to stressing the released species.
• While very valuable, the GB IUCN red listing process is not suitable for this purpose when used in isolation. It is complex and requires high levels of evidence of species population trends including, for example, 10 years or three generations of population trend data. 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 there is an implicit assumption that NGOs 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 still a "Threatened" category, which means species listed as Vulnerable are "facing a high risk of extinction in the wild". It is unclear what this approach would mean for “Data Deficient” species, but again, a large amount of data needs collecting to move a species from Data Deficient to red listed, and the burden of collecting these data again falls to concerned NGOs.
• The changes that have been decided by the QQR Review Group remove the opportunity to prevent species decline other than in extreme circumstances where it may already be too late. Legislation such as the Wildlife and Countryside Act should be operating to prevent species slipping towards endangerment rather than acting as the proverbial ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. Under the changes outlined, we will only be reacting to catastrophic species declines.
We would like to join other NGOs in formally requesting that the QQR Review Group carry out a public consultation on the decision to change the eligibility criteria before proceeding with the planned timetable.
Dr Jo Judge, CEO BIAZA