MP Derek Thomas accepts award recognising work on Scilly to improve Manx Shearwater numbers

West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas, who is the parliamentary champion for the much-loved Manx Shearwater seabird, has received a prestigious RSPB award, recognising the work that is being done to protect the species on the Isles of Scilly.

Scilly is one of only two locations in England where breeding colonies for the Manx Shearwater can be found but, since the birds nest in burrows, the young are at great risk from rats.

Mr Thomas said: “I was very pleased to pick up the Species Award trophy on behalf of the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust and the many volunteers on Scilly who have personally ensured that Manx Shearwaters can succeed on Scilly.

“It recognises that the Manx Shearwater has recovered more rapidly than other species of concern and this success is because people on Scilly have, for several years, cleared the litter and eradicated all the rats on St Agnes and Gugh.

“As a result, the breeding population of Manx shearwaters increased from 22 pairs in 2013, before rat eradication, to 59 pairs in 2017 and, for the first time in living memory, 43 ‘star-gazing’ chicks were recorded in 2017. The project is being recognised as a world leader in community-led island restorations.

“However, there is more to do and more money is needed to clear other islands on Scilly as part of the Seabird Recovery Project while there is the challenge to maintain St Agnes and Gugh’s rat-free status.”

Mr Thomas has also joined other species champions to urge the Prime Minister to set up a rigorous and effective watchdog that will help to protect endangered species.

In the letter signed by 15 Species Champions, the signatories say: “Without serious action we risk losing iconic UK species such as hedgehogs, turtle doves, swifts and sea bass from our land and seas.

“We remain concerned by the most recent State of Nature report which found that 56% of UK species were in decline, 15% of species are extinct or threatened with extinction and 165 species are considered critically endangered.

“We urge you to seize this opportunity to design a truly world-leading watchdog, to ensure environmental laws are upheld and give our iconic UK species the best chance to recover and inspire generations to come.”