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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 13th January 2020.

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if his Department will respond to the Wild Bird Populations in the UK 1970-2018 Report; and what steps his Department is taking to tackle the decline in the wild bird population in England.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Defra published the Wild Bird Populations in the UK 1970-2018 Report on 7 November 2019. The statistics show that whilst the average population trend for all bird species has changed relatively little compared with 40 years ago, there has been a marked difference in the position of individual species, with some species increasing and some species decreasing.

In England, agri-environment schemes, such as Countryside Stewardship, are the principal means of improving habitat provision for farmland birds and the wider environment on farmland by providing funding for activities such as conserving and restoring habitats including woodland creation. The Government’s future approach to farm support will enhance the public goods that agriculture delivers and will play a pivotal role in meeting the legally-binding commitments on air, on water, and nature by which will be set out in the Environment Bill.

The network in England of over 4,000 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) protects the habitats of many species including wild birds. Many of these sites are also recognised for their international importance. These include 87 Special Protection Areas (SPAs) classified to protect the habitats of rare and vulnerable wild birds. Our 25 year Environment Plan (25YEP) includes a goal to restore 75% of SSSIs by area to favourable condition by 2042.

Since 2012 Defra has created four new marine SPAs and extended eight others to protect foraging areas seabirds use while breeding. The Government is also developing a UK Plan of Action on Seabird Bycatch, working closely with our partners and stakeholders, in order to understand and mitigate the impacts of bycatch on seabird populations in UK waters.

Unsustainable harvesting and habitat degradation along the migratory routes of some UK species contributes to population declines. That is why the UK continues to work with international partners through, for example, the treaty on the Conservation of Migratory Species and the African Eurasian Water Birds Agreement, to conserve migratory species and habitats internationally.

The Government is developing a new Nature Strategy will set our ambition to conserve and enhance England’s biodiversity, including wild birds, and deliver on our global targets and the goals set out under our 25YEP.

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