Protective Legislation At the moment there is no formal overall wildlife protection law in place. This is currently under consideration, after the author had presented a case to the States, the island parliament, at Chief Pleas in March 1997, following an earlier appeal on the same subject in 1990 and those of others before him over the previous 20 years or so. (Chief Pleas is an ancient Norman custom unique to the Channel Islands, when [in Alderney at least] electors are enabled by law to address the States in session twice a year, on any subject of their choice, after giving due notice. If the subject of the plea is considered of sufficient merit, some action may eventually result. The Sark Parliament is still known as Chief Pleas).
It was agreed by a vote of 11:1 in the Sates in 1998 that members would like to introduce such a law, but by mid 2005 nothing has yet materialised. The formation of the Alderney Wildlife Trust in 2002 has produced a much greater cooperation with States committees and two conservation areas, totalling about 160 acres, have now been set up for which the AWT is responsible. With the cooperation of several private landowners and the States, the first of these covers much of Longis Common, the East Coast and Mannez Garenne, sections 7 and part of 6 on the map in file Eco02, (click here to see the map again as a reminder), whilst the second covers the whole of the Val du Saou on the south coast and some adjacent land, all in section 9 of that map. It is hoped that a third area will cover the Giffoine which includes most of section 10. The coastal and offshore parts of this section and of section 1, also including the islands of Burhou and Little Burhou, and the islets Ortac and the Casquets, have been included as a Ramsar site (a wetland area of international importance) which is expected to be included with the British Ramsar sites in August 2005.
Alderney first introduced a Green Belt Law in 1935 to protect the S & W cliffs from housing development. This was extended on a number of subsequent occasions in 1957, 60, 67, 69, 76 and 89 (see Figures 1-5 below). The last two were only minor modifications.
A Bird Protection Law was first introduced in 1933 and later amended. It now includes The Protection of Wild Birds Ordinance 1949, as amended in 1962, 65 and 86. This makes it an offence to interfere with the nests or nesting sites of any bird and to kill or capture any, except a short list of 'vermin'; Rook Corvus frugilegus; Carrion Crow C. corone corone; Hooded Crow C. corone cornix; Magpie Pica pica (these last two are virtually unknown in the island); Woodpigeon Columba palumbus; House Sparrow Passer domesticus; and Starling Sturnus vulgaris; which may be killed at any time and a few game birds; Pheasant Phasianus colchicus; Snipe Gallinago gallinago; Woodcock Scolopax rusticola; Partridge Perdix perdix; and Quail Coturnix coturnix; which may be shot in a limited season between October and 1st January.
The Mauvaises Herbes Loi 1933 (Noxious Weeds Law) set out a short list of plants; "Hemlock Water-dropwort Oenanthe crocata; (which had actually already been eliminated by the farmers by 1860 because of its poisonous effect on cattle), Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium; Ragwort Senecio jacobea; Creeping and Marsh Thistles Cirsium arvense & C. palustre; Docks Rumex spp.; of all kinds, Nettles, both Common Urtica dioica; and Small U. urens; and Wild Garlic" (Three-cornered Garlic Allium triquetum; known locally as 'Stinking Onions'), which all land and house owners were required to remove from their land if in flower or seed, to prevent invasion of neighbouring land. Charlock Sinapis arvensis; Dandelions Taraxacum spp.; and Hedge Mustard Sisymbrium officinale; were added to the list in 1952.
Intended to encourage good husbandry on the agricultural land, this was well observed until the 1960s, when agriculture ceased to be of much importance to the island economy. Since then, although the provisions were published in local journals annually, as a reminder, until about 1985 and once again in 1997, the law has been largely ignored and, in particular Hogweed, various Docks and Ragwort have infested considerable areas of the redundant, mostly privately owned, agricultural land and the commons and cliffs, (large areas of which are public land). In the last 2-3 years some effort has been put into removing these weeds from States' controlled areas by spraying and mowing, but nothing has been done to enforce the law on other landowners.
This law, whilst intended for the common good, produces something of a 'Catch 22' situation and can actually have adverse effects on many insect and bird species. In addition to the direct effect of the toxic herbicides used; on birds, insects and small mammals, these sprays also kill many broad-leaved wild flowers, e.g. Celandine Ranunculius ficaria, Clovers Trifolium spp., etc., which are not their target. If fully applied, eliminating or greatly reducing Nettles, Ragwort, Docks and Thistles, either by mowing or spraying, would remove the food plants of many insect species who feed on their nectar and, in particular, the moths and butterflies who use them as host plants to lay their eggs on and for their caterpillars to feed on. Many birds rely greatly either on these caterpillars, or on the seeds produced by the plants, for their own food and/or to rear their young. Scrub clearance can also adversely affect the habitats of some birds, notably the Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata, an infrequent species inhabiting large unbroken areas of bramble and gorse, which breeds here in small numbers and is a great attraction to visiting "twitchers". Attempts to control the Rat Ratus spp. population, thriving on the Grande Blaye in some years on unharvested or flattened grain crops, with poisons, also affects other small mammals including that Alderney special, the Greater White-toothed Shrew Crocidura russula and, indirectly, the well established population of Kestrels Falco tinnunculus, the island's principal resident raptor, which catch and feed on the rodents.
After pressure from the author on a number of occasions to publish this annual reminder again a decision was made by the States that it was impractical to control most of these plants as they were now far too widespread and the law was amended in about 2004 to remove from the list everything except Ragwort, which was acknowledged to be a danger to cattle, who normally avoid it when it is growing, if dried plants were accidentally fed in hay, especially to young stock.
The Wild Plants Protection Order 1950 made it an offence to dig up plants to sell for commercial purpose, without permission of the landowner. The Maintenance of Hedges, etc. Ordinance 1953 concerned the cutting by landowners of foliage overhanging public highways and footpaths 'to prevent obstruction'. It replaced the much older Branquage Loi which required this done to a height of 15 ft and is now included in the Road Traffic & Public Highways Ordinance 1966. A reminder to householders and landowners in once again published annually since about 2003-4
The Trees Ordinance 1963 is now included in the Building & Development Control Law 1969 (as later amended). It forbids the felling of any tree more than 9 inches in circumference, without planning consent. This was widely ignored for many years, especially by building developers, and no action was ever taking against offenders, but has recently been more frequently observed, with a number of people applying for consent to fell or lop large trees. So far this has never been refused and no enquiry has ever been made about possible environmental consequences, by the relevant States committee.
The Protection of Animals (Alderney) Ordinance 1977 covers captive and domestic species only and prescribes penalties for cruelty, abandonment and deliberate administration of poisonous substances, and the Animal Experiments (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law 1991 concerns strict controls on experiments for veterinary or other scientific purposes.
The marine environment around the island is not greatly threatened directly by the local population. Gathering the Ormer Haliotis tuberculata a large, ear-shaped, mollusc regarded as a great delicacy in the islands and virtually at the northern limit of its range in Alderney, is protected by ancient Bailiwick laws concerning the manner and timing of its gathering and the minimum size which may be taken. Fish stocks all round the Channel approaches have become considerably reduced in recent years through over-fishing by EU countries and Russian trawlers.
In recent years, oil pollution from several wrecked tankers has taken its toll of seabird and sea mammal life and probably also of crabs and lobsters near the shoreline. However the greatest threat to the area is from the discharge of nuclear waste into the sea from the Atomic Reprocessing plant at Beaumont-Hague on the Cap de la Hague, 9 miles away on the French coast. This has already produced increased levels of radioactive chemicals in local shellfish and seaweeds and atmospheric pollution, although the actual levels, measured in regular monthly monitoring of the sea water, seaweeds and shellfish, are still claimed to be "within safe limits" by both the French and Channel Island authorities. Atmospheric levels are continuously monitored by a sensor on the roof of the States offices. Protests from the Channel Islands about the danger this poses have had little effect on the French authorities over the years, although in 1997 the French Minister of Health resigned after it was proved that the Cogema management, who run the plant, had consistently lied about medical statistics concerning leukaemia in the surrounding area and discharge levels into the sea. The Green Peace organisation was particularly active in measuring and publicising discharge levels from the pipe in 1996/7 and on several occasions found levels greatly above internationally agreed maxima.