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Gough and Inaccessible Islands

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Factors affecting the property in 2016*
  • Invasive/alien terrestrial species
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports

Substantial threat to the important seabird colonies from invasive species (mice) (issue mentioned since 1999)

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2016
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2016**
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2016

On 15 January 2016, the World Heritage Centre transmitted a letter to the State Party raising concern that two recent scientific papers reported an 87% chick mortality rate of Atlantic petrel and a breeding success rate of less than 10% of Tristan albatross on Gough Island, due to predation by invasive house mice. 

On 18 April 2016, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/740/documents/, and provides the following information:

  • According to a 2015 peer-reviewed paper, Gough Island was identified as the top priority for invasive vertebrates in the United Kingdom Overseas Territories, and a recent feasibility study tested positive for successful mouse eradication from the island;
  • The proposed mouse eradication programme will involve ground-based application as well as two applications of rat poison from four helicopters. Primary poisoning of other species on the island will be mitigated by taking representative individuals of each species into captivity, which ensures genetic viability in line with a newly developed captive management plan;
  • The operational phase of the programme is expected to begin in 2018–2019, followed by two subsequent years of monitoring;
  • The eradication programme is estimated to cost £7.5 million, of which the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is anticipated to contribute 75% through its concerted fundraising campaign. The State Party foresees a bid in late 2016 to provide funding for the remainder of the budget.

The State Party also reports that the eradication programme for the invasive plant Sagina procumbens has been almost continuously implemented since 2009. A review of the programme in 2014 led to a proposal for the RSPB to lead a further five-year eradication campaign.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2016

The rate of decline in seabird populations on Gough Island, primarily as a result of predation by invasive mice, is noted with significant concern. The critically endangered Tristan albatross (Diomedea dabbenena) in particular appears to have experienced a major decline in breeding success rate predominately due to low fledgling survival rate. Other affected species include the critically endangered Gough finch (Rowettia goughensis) and the endemic Atlantic petrel (Pterodroma incerta). The scientific reports note that the smaller petrel species are particularly vulnerable to extinction from the island in the near future if mice are not eradicated, and urgent actions are therefore required to reverse this declining trend in bird populations.

Whilst noting that allocation of three-quarters of the eradication programme budget is anticipated through RSPB’s fundraising campaign, it is of concern that the remaining funding source has not yet been confirmed. Considering the urgent need to address the threat, which is directly impacting the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), and recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.32 adopted at the 33rd session (Seville, 2009), which requested the State Party to eradicate mice within five years, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to urgently allocate sufficient funds for the rapid implementation of the eradication programme.

Also recalling decision 33 COM 7B.32 in which the State Party was requested to ensure continuous programmes of eradication of procumbent pearlwort (Sagina procumbens) for at least the next three years, it is appreciated that the programme has been almost continuously implemented since 2009, led by the Tristan da Cunha government and RSPB, through John Ellerman Foundation funding. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to submit an update on the current status of the procumbent pearlwort on the island, as well as further details on the further five-year eradication campaign.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2016
40 COM 7B.103
Gough and Inaccessible Islands (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) (N 740bis)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.32, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),
  3. Notes with significant concern the rate of decline of seabird populations on Gough Island, including Atlantic petrel and Tristan albatross due to predation on chicks by the invasive house mouse ;
  4. Requests the State Party to take urgent action to eradicate mice from the island and urges the State Party to make a firm commitment to allocate sufficient funds for the rapid implementation of the house mouse eradication project;
  5. Appreciates however that the procumbent pearlwort (Sagina procumbens) eradication programme has been almost continuously implemented since 2009, and also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre updated information on the current status of the species on the island and details of the further five-year eradication campaign;
  6. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2017, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.
Draft Decision: 40 COM 7B.103

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.32, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),
  3. Notes with significant concern the rate of decline of seabird populations on Gough Island, including Atlantic petrel and Tristan albatross due to predation on chicks by the invasive house mouse ;
  4. Requests the State Party to take urgent action to eradicate mice from the island and urges the State Party to make a firm commitment to allocate sufficient funds for the rapid implementation of the house mouse eradication project;
  5. Appreciates however that the procumbent pearlwort (Sagina procumbens) eradication programme has been almost continuously implemented since 2009, and also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre updated information on the current status of the species on the island and details of the further five-year eradication campaign;
  6. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2017, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.
Report year: 2016
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Date of Inscription: 1995
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(x)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2016) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 40COM (2016)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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