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Watching dolphins from the beach in Scotland: WDC/Charlie Phillips

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Risso's dolphins are captured in Taiji hunt. Image: LIA and Dolphin Project

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Haul of sea bass on French pair trawlers, Le Baron and Magellan, fishing in the English channel. Greenpeace is currently in the English channel protesting against pelagic pair trawling due to the high numbers of dolphin deaths associated with it.

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Porpoise, Conwy Wales. WDC

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WDC NA

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Growing up with the amazing Adelaide Port River dolphins

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Good to see the UK standing firm on fish disgards – shame that the Chancellor is threatening to steamroller over the rest of our wildlife

The Guardian is reporting that the ‘UK vowed to hold firm against plans to continue the wasteful practice of throwing away edible fish at sea, at a meeting in Brussels on Monday. France and Spain have written a "joint declaration" to be discussed at today’s all-day meeting of fisheries ministers in Brussels, the Guardian revealed last week, which if adopted would mean the proposed ban on discarding healthy fish at sea would be lost.’

WDCS takes it’s hat off to the UK Minister, Richard Benyon MP, for fighting to conserve fish.

Meanwhile the UK’s Chancellor has appeared to have declared war on the rest of our wildlife.

In April 2011, the UK Government’s Cabinet Office launched its ‘Red Tape Challenge’. This means, the Government publishes regulations online every few weeks according to a specific theme. They are asking the public for comments on the impacts of regulations and possible improvements. The Red Tape Challenge website states that ‘the default presumption will be that burdensome regulations will go. If Ministers want to keep them, they have to make a very good case for them to stay.’ This means, unless there is a positive position taken by the public and Ministers, the regulation should be scrapped.

What appears to be a positive method of public consultation could, however, be turning into a nightmare for nature and biodiversity conservation, as well as a method for Government to avoid its own declared aims on climate change.

Throughout the process the Government publishes the general regulations that cross all sectors. These six cross-cutting themes (Equalities, Environment, Employment Related Law, Company and Commercial Law, Pensions) will be open for comment throughout the Red Tape Challenge process, but every few weeks the Government publishes the regulations affecting one specific sector or industry. For each of these there will be a ‘spotlight’ window for users to submit views. Interested businesses, individuals and organisations are asked to comment on which regulations could be improved or redesigned, which should be got rid of, or which should be kept.

The regulations under the Environment Theme aim to promote sustainable development and protect the environment. There are 278 regulations that relate to the environment, for ease of commenting, the Government has broken them into the following seven areas:

  • Air quality
  • Biodiversity, wildlife management, landscape, countryside and recreation
  • Energy labelling and sustainable products
  • Industrial emissions and carbon reductions
  • Noise and nuisance
  • Waste
  • Environmental permits, information and damage

The regulations under the Biodiversity, wildlife management, landscape, countryside and recreation area for example aim to conserve vulnerable or rare species, habitats and wildlife sites. They also control access to footpaths and national parks.

They include provisions on fishing activities; invasive non-native species; protection of native species; traps; trade in endangered species; zoo licensing; dangerous wild animals; game; selling dead wild birds; registering and ringing captive birds; wildfowling restrictions; national park authorities; common land; rights of way; areas of outstanding beauty; and pest control.

You can find all 163 regulations that relate to biodiversity, wildlife management, landscape, countryside and recreation on the left here.

The Government wants to hear the public’s views on how they could reduce regulatory burdens, and improve implementation of these regulations; to ensure that they can deliver their policy aims and protect the environment in the most effective way. They specifically want to know:

  • Should they be scrapped altogether?
  • Could their purpose be achieved in a non-regulatory way (eg through a voluntary code?) How?
  • Could they be reformed, simplified or merged? How?
  • Can their bureaucracy be reduced through better implementation? How?
  • Can their enforcement be made less burdensome? How?
  • Should they be left as they are?

WDCS wants to make sure that the Government takes their duties to protect the environment and species within seriously and therefore, we ask you to visit the above websites and submit a comment urging the government to safeguard the future of our vital environmental legislation. It only takes two minutes. Without it our wildlife and special places will be at the mercy of unrestrained human activity and ever more severe climate change.

Scraping them would also make a mockery of the Coalition Government’s ambitions to be the ‘greenest government ever’.

Here are some particular points that you could raise:

  • Regulations designed to conserve species and protect the natural environment are of great importance and should not be removed;
  • We need more and better protection for wildlife and habitats, not less, specifically ‘recklessness’ needs to be reinstated into the Habitats Regulations and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, to make it an offence again to deliberately or ‘recklessly’ capture, kill, disturb, or trade in an animal of European protected species which includes all dolphins, whales and porpoises;
  • Urgent measures are required to prevent disturbance, protect breeding and resting places, control noise, and ensure cross-sectoral planning and zoning of activities and this will require a better legal definition of ‘disturbance’;
  • A definition of ‘breeding and resting places’ is required for mobile marine species within the Habitats Regulations;
  • Changes are also required within the Habitats Regulations to allow the prohibition of the deterioration or destruction of breeding and resting sites to be defined and enforced with regard to mobile marine species;
  • Where offences are created, meaningful penalties need to be applied;
  • There needs to be better coordination of planning across all regions and all industry sectors throughout the UK. Overall spatial planning, licensing and enforcement needs to be separated from those bodies promoting industry sectors to ensure the process is unbiased and transparent, whilst independence needs to be sought across all oversight
  • Strategic Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Assessments need to be carried out that do not pre-suppose that development is inevitable;
  • Codes of Conduct should be made legally enforceable across all sectors with a lead organisation made responsible for enforcement. Impact studies should be undertaken in areas where recreational and commercial pressures may exist;
  • Effective methods and incentives that promote compliance with laws need to be introduced, including via the appointment of marine wildlife tourism officers located in areas of high marine tourism activity and/or areas which are particularly vulnerable;
  • Government needs to make a firm public commitment to cetacean protection so that it is clear to all sectors that activities at sea should take this into account.