We are the world’s leading independent conservation organisation. We’re determined to ensure that people and nature can thrive together, for generations to come.Our mission is Safeguarding the natural world, tackling the global threat of climate change, and helping people to change the way they live to ease pressure on natural resources.
We use different tagging methods to better understand the population demographics and individual behaviour and movement of turtles. Through the use of satellite tags, for example, we can learn where a turtle is moving to when it’s not nesting on a beach in Kenya. That information then allows us to learn about the broad habitat types that turtles are moving through, but we don’t necessarily have detailed information about the quality of those habitats.
By using camera tags, we can get footage of these underwater habitats and so can gain a much better understanding of the level of pollution and siltation. We can also get a glimpse into the underwater life of marine turtles, which is simply fascinating! It’s for this reason that we’ve partnered with the Arribada Initiative to deploy 10 camera tags on marine turtles that come to nest in Lamu Seascape.
How to tag a turtle
If you’ve been following these blogs for a while, you’ll probably know that mature female turtles always come back to the beach that they themselves hatched from to lay their eggs. Isn’t that amazing? They also come back to nest 3-4 times during each nesting season. That means there’s a fair amount of predictability to their behaviour, at least during nesting season, and we use that to our advantage when tagging.
When we know the time is right, our teams (which consist of WWF staff, Kenya Wildlife Service staff and members of the local community who are part of the Kiunga Turtle Conservation Group) stay up all night waiting quietly for the turtles to come back and lay their eggs. We’re very careful not to disturb the nesting process but once it’s finished our team of experts carefully encloses the turtle in a temporary wooden barrier. Then quickly clean up its upper shell and attach the camera tag using durable glue. It isn’t rocket science, but caution, precision and timeliness are key. The camera tags have to be attached early in the nesting season so that we’re confident the turtle will come back to nest again soon at which point we can remove the tag and collect the camera footage.
Why tag a turtle
What marine turtles do when they’re at sea has always been a bit of a mystery. But through our tagging efforts, we’re starting to build a picture for those marine turtles that visit Kenya. The information that comes from the camera tags will give us even greater insight into the challenges being faced by marine turtles and the habitats they use and that will help us make strategic conservation decisions.
One thing in particular that we’re hoping the camera tagging will give us insight into is the impact of marine plastics, as well as other types of pollution, on marine turtle habitats along the Kenyan coast and beyond. Shockingly, WWF’s Living Planet Report showed that an estimated 90% of seabirds and 50% of marine turtles have plastic in their stomachs. Our oceans are choking with plastic and other solid waste and, if the current trends continue, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans. We want to understand the extent to which the turtles we see are having to navigate plastic pollution and how it impacts their daily lives.
Capturing this information on film also helps us to tell a really powerful story when we talk to local communities and also when we talk to governments. We hope that the footage from the camera tags will provide us with evidence that can contribute to our efforts to beat the plastic pollution crisis that we’re facing. We’re calling on governments to have a global legally binding agreement to eliminate plastic leakage into the oceans so that we can end this crisis by 2030. To help this effort, you can sign our petition.
Stay tuned for more news about our turtle work and the footage that we manage to capture!
Our conservation work in coastal Kenya is hugely diverse and impacts people, wildlife and habitats.
Managing and understanding data about the wide range of work we’re doing is really important. It helps us measure our impact and provides information that we can use to inform our work.
But, as important as this information is, it can be tricky to find the resources to make sure that the data collection is done well and that the data is analyzed and shared in a timely way.
The ‘Centre of Excellence’
In WWF-Kenya, to help tackle this challenge, we’ve been developing a knowledge management system called the ‘Centre of Excellence’ (CoE).
This online system, when used with other technology solutions, supports the monitoring and visualisation of the work we’re doing. By being a central store for this information, it enables data sharing and collaboration.
We’ve recently started to use the CoE in the Coastal Kenya Programme. In the Lamu-Tana landscape we’ve been piloting using mobile technology, linked to the CoE data portal, to enable more people to monitor conservation activities. This involves both partners and local community members.
Using a mobile app, we’ve been gathering and sharing information about sustainable agriculture work.
Mobile phones are now widely available around the world. Even in some of the poorest, most remote communities you can find mobile phones! This widespread use has led many, including the conservation sector, to consider how mobile phone technology might help with timely data collection.
But, whilst data collection using mobile phones has been used elsewhere in Kenya, in Lamu County we haven’t used this technology to date; network connection is poor at best and simply not available in many locations.
What’s crucially important about the app we’ve been using in our recent pilot, is that it’s possible to collect data in the field; both when you’re online and when you’re offline. The data is then automatically transmitted to the CoE once the phone is within minimum mobile network range or at a Wi-Fi hotspot. Once it’s transmitted, the data we’ve collected on agricultural methods and landscape restoration efforts is then mapped geographically to help with analysis and interpretation.
sample Farmers Survey output
Whilst this exercise was a pilot, we’re already seeing enormous benefits. For example, we’re able to achieve near-instantaneous transmission of data to a central coordinating point.
By reducing the amount of time between local data collection and delivery, we’re saving weeks in the overall data collection and analysis process. Likewise, digital data capture means that we’re greatly reducing the risk of transcription errors as well as the risk that data is lost or damaged in transit.
Capture and transmission of data digitally also ensures easier storage and access to information at a later date.
Another bonus was that the costs of this method of data collection were substantially lower than traditional methods. As the data collectors, the farmers that we work with, already know how to use mobile phones for different purposes. The technical training that was required was therefore much less.
Involving the people we work with in the monitoring also means that there’s transparency in our work and ownership within the local community.
Based on this pilot, we anticipate that data collection using mobile devices will be a game changer in helping us to monitor the projects we implement. Watch this space for more updates!
My thanks goes to my colleagues Ahmed Mbarak, Abdalla Siro and Nathan Mutunga who helped with the pilot and with the writing of this blog!
There’s been no time for the January blues here on the coast in Kwale, Kenya!
The past few weeks have been incredibly busy, and we really have ‘hit the ground running’ in 2019.
This is thanks to a boost in support for our conservation efforts, which is both heart-warming and inspiring. We couldn’t be more excited about what the rest of the year is going to bring!
One of the most important groups supporting our work is the youth of Kwale County. It’s critical that we invest in the training and mentoring of young people; to help ensure that they become responsible citizens and champions for the sustainable management of our natural environment.
They also need to be able to hold our generation to account for the impact we have on the environment.
Across Kenya, we work in a variety of ways with students from a range of institutions.
Youth groups have, for example, have been playing an important role in our campaign to “Keep Kenya Breathing” which aims to engage Kenyans in the planting of one billion trees, whilst also raising awareness of forest conservation issues.
In Kwale, one of our strongest relationships has been with the Technical University of Mombasa which has a campus not far from our office.
Sadly, in Kenya there aren’t really that many students who want to pursue a career in conservation, but the students at the Technical University of Mombasa are different! They regularly come knocking at our door seeking out opportunities to get involved and we’re always keen to engage them.
The students have formed an environmental club, and with our support they’ve already established a nursery with nearly 2,000 indigenous seedlings as well as a botanical garden on their campus.
Marine trash collected with WWF-Kenya (Credit: Hassan Mohamed)
The group also is actively involved in plastic waste pollution management. They are members of the Kwale plastic plus collectors’ group which is an initiative seeking to create a value chain for plastic waste by collecting, sorting and processing the waste to create valuable products.
It is truly fantastic to see, and gives you hope for future generations.
A boost to Kwale’s forests and communities
Another major boost to our conservation efforts has come in the form of new funding from the Federal Government of Germany. Your support helped, in part, to leverage this funding and we couldn’t be more grateful.
This new support is for a four-year-project which is focused on securing and restoring critical forest and mangrove ecosystems in Kwale.
Through the project, we’ll continue to work with a wide range of stakeholders to address the drivers of ecosystem destruction. We’ll strengthen the capacity of local communities to influence government decisions and the capacity of government agencies to implement policy; as well as strengthening the application of environmental and social safeguards at national and local level.
We’re just getting going, but we estimate that it will benefit more than 4,000 people both in terms of their ability to influence natural resource management decisions and also the income opportunities they have.
I look forward to updating you on progress in my future blogs.
Women are an integral part of the agricultural sector in coastal Kenya. They play a key role in food production and food security and are, in many ways, the backbone of rural economies. As such, there’s a huge potential for women to play an important role in ensuring that agricultural practices are climate-smart, sustainable and support conservation efforts.
In rural Kenya, women dominate subsistence agriculture activities and they contribute the lion’s share of the labour required for food production. Their work includes: collecting household fuel, fetching water, digging and weeding, transporting and storing food products, marketing their products, and much more.
One of the many female farmers in Coastal Kenya. Credit: John Bett
But these hardworking women face many challenges. For example, most of the women in Lamu County don’t have tenure of the land that they farm which puts their livelihoods at risk. Likewise, these women often have limited access to credit to help finance their agricultural activities. Women also have limited access to agricultural extensions services which means that access to much needed education and technical assistance is lacking. We’re also seeing that where there are improvements in technology, these new technologies haven’t necessary been designed with the needs of women in mind.
Market opportunities for agricultural produce are also limited for women because they lack access to market research information. Restricted transport access and poor road quality further limits the ability of many women access the best markets. As such, they are constrained to local markets, where the prices are generally lower than urban markets, and often vulnerable to exploitation by commodity middlemen.
Tree Planting to build resilience. Coastal Kenya. Credit: John Bet
At the same time, women (and children) are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate related risks such as droughts, unpredictable rainfall and floods. The agricultural tasks that are traditionally undertaken by women become more uncertain and dangerous as these extreme climatic events increase in frequency. Even though this is the case, women receive less information on climate impacts than men and they have very little voice in decision making processes about related policies.
At WWF, we recognise that men and women use natural resources in different ways so it’s important that we engage with both men and women. In my previous blogs, you might have read about the work we’re doing to ensure that agricultural practices are “climate-smart” (agricultural systems that effectively support development and ensure food security in a changing climate). Making sure those efforts reach women is critical!
Climate-smart techniques could keep these bananas growing for years to come. Credit: John Bett
Working with Farmers
At the moment, we’re working with 145 farmers. Of those, 58 are women. Working with the State Department of Agriculture and the County Government, we’re empowering and educating these farmers about climate-smart agricultural practices; in order to tackle food insecurity and improve environmental management. We’re helping to show how agricultural practice that support conservation efforts can also improve productivity and income, as well as resilience to the impacts of climate variability.
Farming practices with the community. Coastal Kenya. Credit: John Bett
By ensuring that our efforts target women, as well as men, we’re able to ensure that we’re promoting activities which are suitable and relevant for women too. At the same time, we’re helping women to access financial services, that can support their farming activities, by establishing village savings and loans associations. These are local community structures that help members to save and borrow funds.
Champion Female Farmers
Interestingly, in our experience, women are quicker to start applying the knowledge they gain from our interventions. Men, by contrast, often wait until others in the community have proven the viability of suggested approaches. Female farmers in the communities we work with are becoming brilliant champions for some of the strategies that we are promoting; including diversifying crop types, minimising tillage, using mulch, and implementing drip irrigation and other water conservation measures.
Of course, we still need to do more and we’re always looking for new and innovative ways in which we can ensure that our activities reach all members of the communities that we work with.
So what will you be doing this weekend? Amongst spending time with friends and family, why not consider an act to save the planet? After the chaos of “Black” Friday, why not contemplate the chance to do something more “green”?
This week marks National Tree Week in the UK, when there will be projects working across the UK to plant trees. As the final autumn leaves fall and the temperature drops, now is a great time to plant trees here in the UK. It’s a great opportunity to take action to help tackle climate change and be part of a global movement to restore forests.
Trees are of critical importance in our efforts to help regulate the climate. The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) set out the opportunity and the challenge of holding global climate change to 1.5 degrees. This week, WWF-UK published its own analysis setting out how the UK can deliver on its commitment to that target, which is going to require sustained and comprehensive efforts. It was unsurprising to the analysis demonstrating see a strong role for forests – by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, tree planting will be critical to avoid dangerous climate change. And at the same time, expanding forests offer a huge range of other benefits for people and the wildlife we love.
The UK has just 13% forest cover at present, a target that many organisations are working to increase. More trees in the right places can contribute to our efforts tackle climate change, create more habitat for birds and animals, help regulate our water supplies, and establish green spaces that are valuable for our mental health. Who wouldn’t want to get involved?
But the value of tree planting goes far beyond the UK. Two months ago I was lucky enough to join the team working on Trillion Trees – an ambitious global collaboration founded on the vision of a world where forests are no longer shrinking, but expanding. We work to protect and conserve forests from the Amazon to Zanzibar, aiming to halt deforestation and ensure that forests are well managed and protected. At the same time, we are working with restoration efforts that can benefit people and nature – bringing back forests that have been damaged or lost.
In Tanzania, Trillion Trees has supported tree planting efforts in forest reserves close to Dar Es Salaam – with WWF and the Tanzania Forest Service planting over 49,000 seedlings to help restore these precious sites, and now creating new opportunities for local and overseas visitors to enjoy them. In Kenya, Trillion Trees will build on the “Keep Kenya Breathing” campaign launched in March by WWF and the government, to work with community associations on ambitious targets to increase forest cover across Kenya. This initiative will help Kenya adjust to a changing climate, while protecting freshwater supplies and agricultural land that the population relies on, and ensuring a secure environment for Kenya’s magnificent wildlife.
So whether you are able to join an event and plant a tree in the UK, or prefer to join WWF and our work to plant trees around the world, I hope you’ll find a way to celebrate National Tree Week. I know I will.
October was very exciting and busy month for us here in Kwale, Kenya. We met new people, developed new solutions to ever emerging challenges and hosted WWF staff from across the globe. Staff gathered to learn and share experience about community based conservation work.
Let me share some of these exciting moments with you.
The Mijikenda Kaya forests
The Mijikenda Kaya forest landscape is an area rich in biodiversity. It has significant sacred and cultural value and is also a World Heritage Site. WWF is working with partners to protect these important coastal forests through community-based initiatives.
The landscape is increasingly facing emerging challenges that need new interventions, new partnerships and collaborations to tackle the threats.
It’s important to build strong resilience at the landscape level – targeting both the biodiversity rich forests and the surrounding farmlands to mitigate against the impacts of climate change. In the last five years the landscape has experienced drought and flooding. This has resulted in a loss of livelihoods and properties making people and ecosystems more vulnerable.
This situation is complicated by economic development in the area which is often not compatible with sustainable growth, and is instead driven by short term gains.
Communities and traditional leaders are facing new threats due to increased demand for construction materials to support large scale development projects along the coast. The materials are extracted from productive farmlands, mostly adjacent to key biodiversity areas leading to degradation on unimaginable levels.
Lack of adherence to environmental standards, limited understanding in the communities of their rights, lack of clear land-use guidelines, and high poverty levels among local communities are some of the challenges.
To tackle these threats, WWF is partnering with county governments, local civil society organisations, community groups and the private sector. The aim is to develop local capacity to engage investors to ensure they adhere to environmental standards – that they avoid sensitive areas such as water catchments and sacred places, and there are proper mechanisms to restore mined areas.
The project will also support local community groups, especially women and youth, to improve land use practices, increase land productivity and diversity of agricultural products.
Sharing learnings from across the globe
Hosting more than 22 WWF staff from 14 countries across the Americas, Asia and Africa was very exciting for us here in Kwale. The workshop aimed to share learnings and expertise on community based conservation approaches from around the globe.
The workshops were conducted right in the middle of communities. We spent hours with different groups each day, to learn from them and share experiences from different counties.
Visits included a number of successful community projects which have overcome many setbacks over the years. We also visited some which are still facing challenges. For each, there was plenty to learn and share.
The experience highlighted just how important it is that we share our experiences and learning. More often than not, the challenges being faced by one community have already been faced by another. Sharing these experiences can help us to better tackle the problem.
Of all the projects we visited….a statement from Madam Zainab, the manager of Kaya Kinondo community bank was the most telling:
….We are successful as a community bank not because of government regulations, policies and policing….we are successful because we are first of all a community. When Juma is repaying his loan, he does so not for fear of losing his household furniture, or cattle or land for defaulting….No, no, he does so for he knows his neighbour is on the queue waiting for him to pay so that she can also get her credit…if he doesn’t pay she will not get…and he cannot live with that….
Equally powerful were sentiments were expressed by the visiting WWF staff:
Gilles Etoga from WWF Cameroon: “All projects should have a strategy on how to engage local communities, with significant income generated. I learnt that it can work if the governance challenges are overcome. The projects here in Kenya illustrated it very well”
Matt Erke from WWF US: “What a trip that was. So incredibly fulfilling and memorable, full of deep and rich interaction with communities, with the WWF Kenya programme, and with each other”
Given the opportunity and the right support, communities play a vital role in the sustainable management and protection of our natural environment. It’s critical that we recognise this.
I’m sure you’ve heard some of the shocking stats about the plastic pollution choking our oceans: 90% of seabirds have fragments of plastic in their stomach; one in two sea turtles have ingested plastic; an estimated 8 million tonnes are dumped in our oceans every single year.
Thanks to awareness raising campaigns such as Sky Ocean Rescue and programmes such as Blue Planet II, public concern about this issue has skyrocketed, and the issue is now among the top policy priorities of the UK Government. There is growing concern about the need to move away from our throwaway culture to a circular economy, where the use of raw materials is reduced and materials are reused or recycled.
But while changes to policy over the last 20 years have helped to increase the amount of materials that are drawn out of the waste stream for recycling, there has been far less emphasis on driving the demand for (or use of) this recycled material. In many instances, it is still often cheaper for industries to use virgin material (newly created plastic) instead of this recycled content.
Plastic bag floating in the sea, resembling a jellyfish swimming.
Increasing demand for recycled content
Our new report, Demand Recycled, looks at ways to change this. Launching in Parliament today, we’ve worked with Resource Association and Eunomia to highlight the potential for new policy options to make using recycled materials more attractive.
Through clear, practical recommendations – developed in consultation with leading industry bodies in the packaging sector – we want to drive this agenda forward, helping the UK to tackle the growing tide of plastic waste and capture the new growth opportunities that would be generated in a thriving waste and recycling sector. The issue needs to be treated with the urgency the plastic pollution crisis demands.
By examining a short-list of four types of policy measures to increase demand, our report recommends a system combining a fee on packaging and products with a refund of the fee made to those who can demonstrate their use of secondary materials. We suggest that improving the market for secondary materials would be a quick and effective step towards creating a circular economy.
Fig 1: Design Option for a Tradable Credit System
Seizing the moment
The report comes at a crucial time for both plastics and the wider waste management system.
In the November 2018 Budget, the UK Government announced it is consulting on a tax on plastic packaging produced or imported with less than 30% recycled content. This measure should help drive increased use of recycled plastic, however, further measures are likely needed to drive the change from a focus on meeting recycling targets (supply) to measures that create a buoyant demand for secondary materials.
With public demand at a high, and Government consultations announced on bans on plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers, a Resources and Waste Strategy, and taxes for plastic packaging, it’s a crucial time for debate.
We need bold and radical policy change to deliver the outcomes that society now desires, and to maximise the opportunities for the UK waste sector. We see this research and analysis as an important contribution to this debate.
Lately, we hear a lot about palm oil, and let’s face it, it’s usually negative and we might hear our ‘more environmentally informed’ friends tell us it’s basically the devil and we should avoid it at all costs if we care about the environment, the rainforests and the Orangutans. Well, here are ten things you should know about palm oil so you can make your own decisions about this ubiquitous ingredient with a bad reputation and the steps you can take to make a difference.
Let’s start with the basics…
1. What is palm oil?
It’s an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees, the scientific name is Elaeis guineensis. Two types of oil can be produced; crude palm oil comes from squeezing the fleshy fruit, and palm kernel oil which comes from crushing the kernel, or the stone in the middle of the fruit. Oil palm trees are native to Africa but were brought to South-East Asia just over 100 years ago as an ornamental tree crop. Now, Indonesia and Malaysia make up over 85% of global supply but there are 42 other countries that also produce palm oil.
2. What products is it in?
Palm oil is in nearly everything – it’s in close to 50% of the packaged products we find in supermarkets, everything from pizza, doughnuts and chocolate, to deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste and lipstick. It’s also used in animal feed and as a biofuel in many parts of the world (not in the UK though!). See a longer list of products at this link.
3. Wow, it’s everywhere! Why?
Palm oil is a super versatile oil that has many different properties and functions which makes it so useful and so widely used. It is semi-solid at room temperature so can keep spreads spreadable; it is resistant to oxidation and so can give products a longer shelf-life; it’s stable at high temperatures and so helps to give fried products a crispy and crunchy texture; it’s also odourless and colourless so doesn’t alter the look or smell of food products. In Asian and African countries, palm oil is used widely as a cooking oil, just like we might use sunflower or olive oil here.
4. So, what’s the problem with palm oil?
Palm oil has been and continues to be a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests, destroying the habitat of already endangered species like the Orangutan, pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino. This forest loss coupled with conversion of carbon rich peat soils are throwing out millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. There also remains some exploitation of workers and child labour. These are serious issues that the whole palm oil sector needs to step up to address because it doesn’t have to be this way.
5. What solutions are there?
Palm oil can be produced more sustainably and things can change. The Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil or RSPO was formed in 2009 in response to increasing concerns of the impacts palm oil was having on the environment and on society. The RSPO has a production standard that sets best practices producing and sourcing palm oil, and it has the buy-in of most of the global industry. Many global palm oil using companies are committed to buying only RSPO palm oil and have made strong NDPE commitments – that’s No Deforestation, Peat or Exploitation. Many of these commitments are for 2020 so we all need to hold them to their word!
6. But why don’t we just switch to an alternative vegetable oil?
Palm oil is an incredibly efficient crop, producing more oil per land area than any other equivalent vegetable oil crop. Globally, palm oil supplies 35% of the world’s vegetable oil demand on just 10% of the land. To get the same amount of alternative oils like soybean or coconut oil you would need anything between 4 and 10 times more land, which would just shift the problem to other parts of the world and threaten other habitats and species. We need to address the root causes of the problem of bad practice by working with palm oil and other oil producers and buyers to change their ways. Boycotting palm oil is not always the answer, but demanding more action to tackle the issues and go further and faster, is.
7. So, is RSPO good enough, can I trust it?
Like any multi-stakeholder process, getting a solution that works for everyone, is difficult and takes time. Whilst there are weaknesses in the RSPO standard and its systems that need to be fixed, it represents the largest, independent, third-party (i.e. quality checked) standard for palm oil. This year (November 2018) will see a meeting of RSPO members from around the world and all parts of the palm oil supply chain in Malaysia to review and strengthen the standard, marking a big step forward for the palm oil industry. Watch this space!
8. How are we doing in the UK?
In 2012 the UK Government recognised that we were part of the palm oil problem and could also be part of the solution. They set a commitment for 100% of the palm oil used in the UK to be from sustainable sources that don’t harm nature or people. In 2016 78% of the total palm oil imports to the UK were sustainable. This is great progress but there is more to be done to get to 100%.
9. What is WWF doing?
WWF works with actors across the supply chain, from producers on the ground to companies that process, trade, manufacture and sell products containing palm oil, financiers, governments of producing and purchasing countries and academics, other NGOs and consumers. We seek to work collaboratively towards the best solutions to make sustainable palm oil mainstream in a way that protects nature, increases livelihoods for the 7.5 million people that depend on it for their income and livelihoods and to ensure food security for a growing global population.
10. What can I do?
Here are four simple things you can do to help make a difference:
Use our WWF Scorecard to see which of your favourite brands and retailers use sustainable palm oil and are committed to ending deforestation.
Contact the brands – thank the best for having started to make a difference and demand those that are failing to do more.
Reduce your consumption and avoid waste.
Raise awareness of the issue and educate about more sustainable options to make a difference.
It is also one the most sparsely populated countries in the world, yet it is undergoing profound environmental, geopolitical and economic change.
Earlier this year, we invited a group of UK parliamentarians who were visiting Greenland to drop in on the newest office in our global network. It opened in 2015 in the capital city Nuuk, establishing WWF as the first global conservation organisation to have an office in Greenland.
James Gray MP, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions, led this expedition, and he kindly shared his reflections with us.
‘Earlier this year, I led a group of Parliamentarians from both houses, representing nearly all parties, on a visit to Greenland to learn more about how the country is rapidly changing. We met a wide variety of stakeholders from government, scientific research institutes and business associations. We hope that these meetings will lead to a new dialogue between Greenland and the United Kingdom as we build a post-Brexit relationship. We also visited WWF’s office, managed by Kaare Winther Hansen.
Kaare introduced us to the Polar Bear Patrol that WWF runs in Ittoqqortoormiit, the northernmost settlement in eastern Greenland, which sits on the migration route for polar bears. Although no one is thought to have been killed by a polar bear in Greenland since the Second World War, the number of conflicts between bears and humans is growing. Shrinking summer sea ice due to climate change is driving bears closer to the shore where they are then attracted by the smell of food and waste from human settlements. The Patrol, set up with the assistance of WWF-UK supporters, helps to keep people and bears safe. Just imagine walking your children to school and coming face to face with a polar bear !
We also discussed the direct support that WWF is giving Greenlanders. One flagship programme has been to help Greenland’s fisheries receive Marine Stewardship Council certification to bolster the value of their products on international markets. So far, good progress has been made certifying Greenland’s offshore fisheries.
Shortly before our group left for Greenland, news had broken that a part of the Arctic’s strongest sea-ice had unexpectedly broken-up for the second time that year. Kaare spoke to us about this ‘Last Ice Area’, a term coined by WWF and used by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his 2016 Arctic Commitments. It is a vast area stretching from the north of Greenland to the Canadian Arctic archipelago covering waters normally frozen throughout the summer. That makes it critical habitat for species of the ice, including polar bears, narwhal and bowhead whales. WWF are engaging stakeholders in this remote region to better support local communities, understand the changes, and identify conservation priorities.’
WWF was delighted to host this visit. We share the hope that their trip will help to reinvigorate British interest in Greenland and the changes that are happening there, which are largely driven by climate change.
The participating members of the APPG for the Polar Regions were: James Gray MP (Chairman), Stephen Hepburn MP, John Mann MP, Mark Menzies MP, Rt Hon Baroness Neville-Jones, Brendan O’Hara MP, Baroness Smith of Newnham, and Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP. Dr Duncan Depledge (Director) also travelled with the group to administer the visit. We are very grateful to WWF UK and WWF Greenland for generously supporting the trip, along with our other sponsors: the Mamont Foundation, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, and the British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union.