Updated: Apr 27
The Grouville Community Environment and Change Group submission in respect of the proposed Order relating to les Minquiers Reef.
On behalf of the Grouville Community and Environmental Group would like to thank the Minister for the opportunity of commenting on the draft Order.
The draft Order is made under the powers of the Wildlife (Jersey) Law 2021 (“The Law”) whose intention is “to make provision relating to the conservation and protection of wild animals, birds and plants, and the promotion of biodiversity in Jersey, and for connected purposes.”
That existing law specifically prohibits the very conduct that the draft Order is now seeking to prohibit, namely the disturbance of nesting birds. Disturbance is defined in the law as;
““disturb” means do any act, or carry out any activity, which in fact does, or might reasonably be foreseen to –
(a) impair the ability of the wild animal or wild bird in question –
(i) to survive, to breed or reproduce, to rear or nurture offspring, or…
This Order does not extend the existing prohibition as set out in “The Law”. It does however, disproportionately restrict the enjoyment of reasonable users of Les Minquiers Reef. Furthermore, the draft Order does not introduce any new enforcement measures or resources, which are from a practical viewpoint, inadequate, even under “The Law”. It is not believed that The Parish has sufficient resource to send Honorary Officers to police the reef and residents or visitors to the reef residents could not be expected to challenge any incidents of potential infringements. The assumed enforcement resource is Officers of the Environment Department, who are very rarely seen on Maitresse Isle. Experience shows that the placing of ropes to cordon off sections of Maitresse Isle during the nesting season is ineffective, so why would the existence of new legislation stop anyone?
The remoteness of the two proposed sites on the reef mean that many visitors attend when no one else is in the area and any disturbance would therefore go unnoticed. The Les Maisons site might only get one or two boats landing people a year. Maitresse Isle, where there are huts, does see a low level of day trippers, some of whom are French. Often visitors are occupants of the huts. On the occasions when persons are on the island, such as owners and occupiers of the huts, there is no way to stop a disturbance occurring, other than by persuasion. The Order may state that it is an offence to disturb the breeding birds, but no one has, or is likely, to police it.
The draft Order relates to two areas of land that are already well protected in law and by the RAMSAR convention, plus the Minquiers Code of Conduct and The States of Jersey Environment Dept Code of Conduct.
Our Group is fully supportive of protecting the environment including wild birds. In our view the extension of this Order to les Minquiers does not balance the needs of all users of the location and would prefer to see the introduction of measures which would provide a more practical solution and achieve greater success rates in protecting wild birds and educating people. Simply prohibiting behaviours is not on its own effective.
As an alternative to the well-intentioned motives of the Minister, it is suggested that a greater focus in placed on awareness and education. To discourage the public from disturbing nesting wild birds the sensitive placing of educational signs in English and French alerting people to the dangers of disturbance is suggested. Informational signs, such as the one placed on La Rocque pier, with pictures of the birds and their habitat, is a good example, especially highlighting the offence of disturbance to wildlife.
To mitigate the risk of disturbance by passengers on charter boats, many of whom are ignorant of their consequences of their actions, it could be made a condition that the crew and charter company are liable for the conduct of their passengers on Maitresse Isle and any disturbance caused by a passenger could lead to the revocation of the charter licence. This may be sufficient incentive for the crew to properly supervise people when ashore. This could easily be implemented as condition of the annual charter licensing arrangements.
The Order does not specify any endangered species of bird, nor mammals or fish, only wild birds. Indeed, one of the five specified species named in the Order is the Common Tern. It is called ‘common’ tern for good reason. The wild species named in the Order can be widely found in many other areas of Jersey, especially on the southeast foreshore, which is also part of the RAMSAR site.
The targeting of the two designated areas appears disproportionate and inconsistent. Another rock on Maitresse Isle is regularly used as a nesting area for terns and gulls, but this area has not been designated, nor have any nesting sites on the Jersey coast. By contrast to the southeast tidal area of Jersey’s foreshore, les Minquiers get very few visitors, but it will be afforded a much higher level of protection.
Existing Areas of Special Protection (ASP) exist for good reason at Les Ecrehous. Les Minquiers are more remote and different in character to Les Écréhous, where it is not uncommon for over 100 leisure boats and 100’s of charter boat passengers to visit on a single day. Les Minquiers are busy if six boats attend and perhaps 2 charter ribs. The potential level of disturbance is therefore much lower at les Minquiers.
The physical extent of the proposed ASP is also disproportionate in that it represents nearly 50% of the land area of Maitresse Isle above the high tide line, a much larger proportion of land than designated at les Écréhous.
The draft Order seeks to apply restrictions for 7 months of the year. The reef is usually only visited in fine weather, between April and September. As the birds do not generally start nesting until April and the fledglings leave the nest by July, the proposed restricted period appears unduly long and imposes an unreasonable restriction on access for other users of the area.
There is also a safety factor to consider in that one of the few places where a mobile phone signal can be obtained is within the proposed ASP. Should mobile communication be required this may not be achieved without committing an offence under this Order by entering the ASP.
Paragraph 4(1) (g) of the draft order prevents dogs being landed unless authorised by the Minister. Again the question of enforcement arises and verification that authority has or has not been provided by the Minister. The wording of the Order does not sit well with real life situations at the les Minquiers. Guidance would be required and published on rules relating to the landing of dogs.
We support the protection of wildlife, including nesting wild birds. The introduction of regulations without the ability of enforcement is not considered to be the most appropriate way of achieving this. Instead, information boards about the risks of disturbance may be erected in sensitive areas, such as on the south wall of the helicopter pad. This may cause persons to think twice before entering the nesting area, and at the same time, educate them about the beauty and diversity of the environment that they are enjoying.
On the grounds of a lack of necessity, disproportionality and unenforceability, we do not support the introduction of this draft Order. We do however, encourage the Minister to introduce alternative and more suitable ways to protect nesting birds on the reef.
This report will be shared with the Connétable of the Parish.
For Grouville Community Environment & Change
Mark Houzé Peter Hargreaves
About the authors
Mark first visited the reef in 1976 and is a regular resident in one of the huts on Maitresse Isle. For the last 12 years he has administered the Impots Hut on Maitresse isle on behalf of the Parish of Grouville.
Peter has visited les Minquiers by kayak on several occasions. He writes both about the parish and it’s territory.