1) British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR)
This volunteer organisation dedicated to the rescue and wellbeing of all marine animals in distress around the UK makes a huge difference to the nation’s marine life.
Led by a group of experts trained in basic marine-mammal rescue, the BDMLR acts as an emergency service for stranded seals, beached whales and dolphins.
Judge Miranda Krestovnikoff says: “This network of people can be contacted at a moment’s notice in any area and they will jump in their cars and race to the beach to help save a particular marine mammal. They do some amazing work around the country and are a great bunch of volunteers.”
You said: “They deserve recognition for the amazing work they do. Grey seals are endangered and the UK has 40% of the world population, so every rescue the BDMLR does is crucial.” Chris Cureton
2) Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project
The Isles of Scilly are home to breeding populations of 13 species; approximately 20,000 birds in all, including the European Storm Petrel and Manx Shearwater. Since 1983, however, the overall seabird population in Scilly had been in decline.
The five-year seabird recovery project, which ended in 2016, aimed to remove the rats that were decimating the birds’ nests in St Agnes and Gugh by stationing bait traps across the islands.
The results are impressive: Manx Shearwaters have risen from 23 to 59 breeding pairs; and storm petrels were recorded breeding successfully for the first time in living memory. It’s now up to volunteers and locals to ensure that St Agnes and Gugh remain rat free.
Judge Mark Rowe says: “It’s a heartwarming project, and a good tangible success story. For more than 100 years, no Manx Shearwater chicks had survived on the Isles of Scilly – but last year, 43 ‘stargazing’ chicks were recorded outside their burrows at night.”
3) The Great British Beach Clean
Every year, volunteers across the whole of Britain come together to clean our coasts of the extensive litter that threatens both marine life and our own health. In September 2017, almost 7,000 people removed 255,209 pieces of litter from 339 beaches, recording every item.
Waste is monitored and traced back to manufacturers, who are urged to make packaging more environmentally friendly. This year, for the first time, many of the plastics removed will be sorted and recycled into shampoo bottles and advertising boards.
Judge John Craven says: “This is a fantastic project, an annual check on just how bad we’re being at disposing of plastic and other items. Recycling the plastic that they find on the beaches is a new aspect of this continuing project – they’re not just cleaning up the beaches, they’re turning it into something useful, which hopefully won’t end up back on the beaches again.”
4) The Highway England Mitigation Project
Hardly the catchiest of titles, but a deserving nominee none the less. This recognises the efforts made to mitigate the damage being caused by the biggest road project currently in construction in UK – the A14 upgrade between Cambridge and Huntingdon, a roadwork that will extend for 21 miles through farmland, taking out mature trees and hedgerows. Highway England’s ecology team have designed a scheme to ensure the area is more biodiverse than before the works, including replanting every tree felled with two more, creating 271 hectares of new, connected habitat for wildlife, planting 866,000 plants from 50 different species and relocating affected species such as water voles, bats and great-crested newts.
Judge Sheena Harvey said: “It’s a project that should lead the way in how to mitigate that kind of damage being done, particularly when you bear in mind the immense scale of damage that HS2 is going to do to the countryside – this is an example that needs to be out there for people to follow.”
5) The Flight of the Swans, WWT
Between 1995 and 2010, numbers of Bewick’s swans making the migration from Arctic Russia to northern Europe plummeted by more than a third – from 29,000 to just 18,000. In order to raise awareness of the plight of the bird, in 2017, Sacha Dench and the expedition team followed its entire migratory route by paramotor – a 7,000 mile journey from the bird’s Arctic breeding grounds back to Britain. By joining the Bewick’s on their migration, the team were able to see why swans are unable to survive the journey, gathering first-hand evidence and information that is contributing to life-saving conservation action along the Bewick’s migratory flyway.
Judge Miranda Krestovnikoff says: “This has really brought the plight of the Bewick’s to the public’s attention. In each and every country Sacha travelled through, people are now more aware – whether it’s the local school children or the local communities – everyone is more engaged with the species now, and invested in its recovery.”
All images: Getty