MS / AS Curlew Species Champion.
Having accepted the invitation to become Wales Species Champion for the Curlew back in 2016, I am delighted to be writing the foreword for the Wales Action Plan for the Recovery of Curlew, meticulously prepared by Gylfinir Cymru /Curlew Wales.
I live in and represent North Wales. The moors in this beautiful part of the country hold the largest population of breeding Curlews in Wales. Sadly, in recent years the species has seen significant declines and is disappearing from all upland areas. Put in context, since 1993, the population in Wales has fallen by over 90% and is falling by ~6% annually, with country-level extinction threatened by 2033. This species' plight is a very sad addition to the nature emergency that we now face in Wales and other parts of the UK.
Curlew is listed as globally Near-Threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species and is a Red-listed Bird of Conservation Concern in Wales. The 'State of Birds in Wales 2018' report reinforces the chronic decline and indicates there is no hint of this trend levelling out.
Because of the seriousness of the Curlew crisis this prompted a ‘call for help’. In January 2018, a Welsh Curlew conference was held in Builth Wells and attended by 120 participants from across conservation, farming, game and rural policy sectors in Wales. This led to regional workshops and the establishment of Gylfinir Cymru / Curlew Wales. In June 2019, I attended the first ever UK Curlew Summit at 10 Downing Street (see appended image), alongside Lewis Macdonald MSP, Species Champion for the Curlew in the Scottish Parliament; Jake Berry MP, Species Champion for the Curlew in Westminster; and representatives from Gylfinir Cymru - Patrick Lindley, Senior Ornithologist, Natural Resources Wales and Amanda Perkins, Curlew Country Project. At the Summit we heard that sufficient resource will be required to advise, encourage and assist groups of farmers to come together to deliver, monitor and champion Curlew and biodiversity across landscapes, and that there is a need to understand the multiple and multi-species benefits of saving Curlew from an ecosystem resilience, cultural and natural heritage perspective.
We also heard that in Wales we are at a critical time for breeding Curlew, and perhaps have only 15 years left and that we should all be involved in co-designing a scheme, with tests and trials; requiring a needs-based mechanism for farm payments, a SMART-based approach; and that we need co-ordination of actions, working at scale and together, including statutory agencies and across the UK. I emphasised the critical importance that the Welsh and Scottish Governments be invited to become involved fully at the first moment that DEFRA or any UK agency is brought in to develop a UK approach to safeguard Curlew.
The Curlew’s distinct and ethereal song is a familiar sound that is deeply ingrained within our culture. It is essential that through this Action Plan we act together now to stop these beautiful birds from wading into extinction over the next decade.
Mark Isherwood MS attending the UK Curlew Summit at 10 Downing Street in June 2019, with Mary Colwell, Lewis Macdonald MSP, and Jake Berry MP.