Brexit implications for conservation in the Caribbean

Soufriere Hills, Montserrat. Image: Jennifer Krauel.

The UK’s Independent reports on how the loss of access to European Union conservation funding after Brexit could impact conservation programmes in UK overseas territories in the Caribbean and elsewhere:

Whales migrating across the Atlantic Ocean, turtles in the Caribbean and unique cloud forests in St Helena are all under threat as EU conservation projects are set to grind to a halt after Brexit.Caribbean and unique cloud forests in St Helena are all under threat as EU conservation projects are set to grind to a halt after Brexit.

Following reports of the Falkland Islands’ penguins entering troubled waters as European funding dries up, conservationists working across Britain’s overseas territories have raised the alarm about the wider impact of this lost money.

Due to their unusual status as neither fully parts of the UK nor independent states, these territories cannot access most domestic and international funding. 

This means EU money has offered a lifeline, and supports around a third of their conservation efforts. There is currently no plan to make up for the shortfall that will emerge when existing projects finish.

Stretching from the British Antarctic Territory to the Cayman Islands, the 14 UK overseas territories are home to hundreds of creatures found nowhere else on Earth. 

As the Brexit date looms, the government has promised to continue supporting ongoing projects in these regions, but beyond that local environmental groups are worried about how they will stay afloat.
“It’s a huge concern,” said Charlie Butt, Caribbean territories programme manager at the RSPB.

“The loss of a third of funding would be catastrophic from a conservation perspective.”

For his part, Mr Butt is overseeing efforts to eradicate invasive species such as rats and green iguanas from British Caribbean territories.
Unique birds such as the Montserrat oriole are currently threatened with extinction, and European cash supports the training of local people and the development of national measures to avert this crisis.

Farah Mukhida, who leads the Anguilla National Trust and oversees projects focused on preserving the island’s vulnerable turtle and iguana populations, said this could just be the beginning of missed opportunities. 

In response to these concerns, a government spokesperson said: “As set out in our 25-year environment plan, we remain committed to taking action to recover threatened, iconic or economically important species, and to prevent human-induced extinction or loss of known threatened species in our overseas territories.

“We recognise the great importance of these unique environments, and are considering how environmental funding for them can best be provided after we leave the EU.”

For more, read the full Independent article: Turtles, whales and birds under threat as UK overseas territories face loss of conservation money after Brexit.

[Image: Jennifer Krauel]

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