A special place... The Isles of Scilly are one of only two places in England where Manx Shearwaters breed

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Under threat...The Isles of Scilly hold 3,000 fewer pairs of breeding seabirds than 25 years ago

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We need YOUR help to protect our important seabird heritage

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Media Centre

Birdwatching Magazine March 2016, read the article here 


Bell Laboratories Newsletter 2016 read the article here 


For media enquiries related to the project, please contact; 


Jaclyn Pearson, Project Manager

Mob: 07881 517047

E-mail: jaclyn.pearson@rspb.org.uk


Tony Whitehead, RSPB Press Officer

Tel: 01392 453754

Mob: 07872 414365

E-mail: tony.whitehead@rspb.org.uk

Notes to Editors:

The Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project is a partnership between the RSPB, the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership, the Duchy of Cornwall, Natural England and the residents of St Agnes and Gugh.

The project aims to reverse the recent decline in seabird numbers (24% between 1983 and 2006) by removing invasive brown rats from St Agnes and Gugh and increasing the number of people actively involved in seabird conservation. The project seeks to encourage the islands to make the most of their natural environmental assets by enhancing access and visitor enjoyment, thus boosting local incomes at the same time as securing the future of seabirds on the archipelago.

1. The Isles of Scilly are internationally important for seabirds with 20,000 breeding birds of 14 different species recorded in 2006. The Seabird Recovery Project seeks to safeguard the seabird colonies in Scilly and reverse their population decline.

2. The UK supports a significant proportion of the world and European populations of two species: the European storm petrel and the Manx shearwater.

3. The population of European storm petrel in Scilly is the only colony in England. It is of international importance (there were 1,398 pairs in 2006).

4. The islands are one of only two locations in England where Manx shearwater breed. Geographically the islands lie at the southern edge of both of these species’ principal range.

5. Overall, the breeding seabird population in Scilly has declined by nearly a quarter in the last 25 years.

6. The greatest threat on land to seabird colonies is from rat predation (brown rats). It limits the distribution of bird species and threatens existing colonies.

7. A partnership of organisations including the RSPB, the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, Natural England, the Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Duchy of Cornwall, is working together to safeguard the seabird colonies on the islands and reduce predator disturbance.

8. For more than 15 years this has involved rat control work on islands uninhabited by humans.

9. In autumn 2010 the partnership commissioned a feasibility study to review the current work and consider future work to control rats that threaten the internationally important seabird colonies in Scilly.

10. The feasibility study concluded that:

a) It will be feasible to remove rats from the inhabited islands of St Agnes and Gugh and there was 100% support for this work to be undertaken on these islands by the residents there.

b) It is not currently feasible to remove rats from the other inhabited islands of St Mary's, St Martin's, Tresco and Bryher.

c) Additional socio-economic and wildlife benefits were identified if rats were completely removed.

11. Based upon the positive feedback from the residents of St Agnes and Gugh the project will remove rats from these islands and maintain the work on the uninhabited islands.

12. Because the islands are designated as a Special Protection Area for their seabirds they are eligible for EU LIFE funding. The project partnership successfully secured funding from LIFE Funding Bid in July 2012. The majority of the rest of the funds were secured through the Heritage Lottery Fund. Additional funding is from the Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership Sustainable Development Fund and the Isles of Scilly Bird Group.

13. This funding will be a major investment in the Isles of Scilly and will support a range of activities including the restoration of St Agnes and Gugh, as well as maintaining the uninhabited seabird islands rat free – there is only one opportunity to do the work so is vital that the job is done thoroughly.

14. There are also a number of practical additional benefits from this work that adds to the value of this investment, from eliminating existing rat control costs for islanders, eliminating the risk of rat borne disease and eliminating the cost of crops lost to rats. The funding will also allow the partnership to work with a range of residents and visitors to help them make the most of the important seabird population, raise awareness of the threats they face, and help more people become involved in their conservation.

15. The Project started in October 2012.

Principal Funders

  • Eruopa
  • Natura 2000
  • Heritage Lottery Fund

Project Partners and Supporters

  • RSPB
In addition to generous support from LIFE, the EU’s progamme for financing key environmental schemes across the continent and the UK’s own Heritage Lottery Fund, the Seabird Recovery Project is also being supported by the Isles of Scilly’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Sustainable Development Fund and the Isles of Scilly Bird Group.