Answering questions from the Manx Wildlife Trust to protect our environment for all of us
Answering questions from the Manx Wildlife Trust to protect our environment for all of us

The Manx Wildlife Trust recently published three questions to ask of candidates in this year’s Isle of Man General Election. The questions from the Manx Wildlife Trust are about reducing the risk of extinctions, combating climate change, and improving health & well-being.

Here are my answers:

The Manx Wildlife Trust has issued three questions to candidates in this year’s election being held on 23 September. Our campaign strongly supports the Wildlife Trust’s efforts to better protect Manx habitats and species, working co-operatively with and not against, nature, including in the fight against climate change. Meeting the shared needs of people and nature is also important – our great outdoors can help improve our health and well-being.

Now, I’ve gotta declare, while I am a paid-up member of the Manx Wildlife Trust, I was not involved in the selection or creation of these questions at all – so, in answering them, I am on a level playing field with other candidates.

Question 1: How are you going to stop another species going extinct in the Isle of Man?

I understand that the most likely animal species to go extinct in the Isle of Man is probably a bird of some sort. After all, private farmers and Manx National Heritage appear to have saved the Loaghtan sheep from extinction last century.

So, when it comes to saving birds, bird experts have advised that the biggest risks to birds include attacks from feral cats, or starvation from a freak weather event like widespread snow. I understand that many birds of our climate are vulnerable to snow because they don’t have the calorie stores which allow them to go long periods of time without food.

Realistically, the best ways to reduce both these risks is through our entire community taking these risks seriously. Responsible cat owners already ensure that their cats do not attack birds, or allow their cat to contribute to a feral population. I know that many people are avid bird lovers on the Isle of Man, and things like bird feeders can help to mitigate the risk of bird deaths during freak weather events.

Finally, improving habitat opportunities will also reduce the risk of extinctions. The work by Manx Bird Life to build a sanctuary on the former Island Aggregates site down north is outstanding, and the recent return of Puffins to the Calf of Man is happy news!

Question 2: How will you work with nature to help solve the climate crisis?

One of the great opportunities that we have as an island is to take advantage of our nearby seas. With over 86% of our island’s land already protected under Biosphere Core and Care designations, we have an opportunity to further improve protection of our seas to combat climate change. Manx Wildlife Trust have proposed that 30% of our territorial seas be designated as Marine Nature Reserves. I’m open to that sort of level of protection – but we need to ensure that any such protections are only introduced after appropriate consultation with our fishing industries. It may be possible to expand our marine nature reserves in a way that enhances local fishing, rather than harms it.

This sort of protection is, of course, in addition to changing our energy sources. Realistically, the most viable option is probably going be dominated by better integration with the UK’s electrical network, because they’re leading the world in low carbon electricity. I’ve already met with UK Members of Parliament to raise the issue of improving our interconnectors. This will help to improve our energy security, improve our protection for the environment, and help to keep prices down.

Question 3: Following COVID-19, how can we use nature to improve health and wellbeing?

Our natural outdoor spaces are great areas to explore as a family, as a sporting club, or as an interest group. There’s no better way to improve health and wellbeing than to be part of a team, because those connections are so important to being human!

I know many families love being in the outdoors to build stronger connections. Local mountain biking and sporting clubs are great ways to take advantage of nature. There are local faith and spirituality groups who have got into the habit of meeting outdoors in nature, especially over summer and to directly reduce the risk of COVID transmission. We’re also fortunate to have many local interest groups which explore walking, boating, hiking, running across our island. Those groups in our community are the lifeblood of our island, and being a member is a great way to improve health and wellbeing and make new friends.