A new set of coins coming into circulation are highlighting the plight of several threatened species that are the focus of research carried out by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Through its advice and science, the GWCT is supporting farmers, land managers and working conservationists to reverse the decline of most of the species featured on the coins.
They will enter circulation by the end of the year, marking the new reign of King Charles III and celebrating his passion for conservation and the natural world.
The Trust’s royal connections stretch back to the 1960s. HM King Charles is our patron, a role he took over from his father. HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, who was our president for eight years before becoming our patron from 1973 until his death in 2021.
Atlantic salmon – 50p coin
Numbers of wild Atlantic salmon have declined significantly by some 80% over the past 40 years. The GWCT’s salmon and trout research team, based on the River Frome in Dorset, have been studying the health and lifecycle of this iconic species and have data going back 50 years. Their work focuses on trying to identify what is causing the decline and what can be done to reverse it.
Dylan Roberts, Head of Fisheries at the GWCT, said: “If you go back to the early and mid-19th century, salmon were so abundant that they were harvested in their hundreds of thousands, and excess was fed to pigs and used as fertilizer on the land.
“In England and Wales populations are now classified as ‘at risk’ on most rivers.
“Our research tells us that much of the problem lies at sea, with declining marine survival and growth rates. However, we believe that some of the issues for salmon at sea begin in the river, and two significant problems are declining water quality and physical habitat – together these are producing juvenile salmon less fit to survive in the ocean.”
Dylan is available for interview and can explain what is happening to salmon in our UK rivers and what needs to happen if we want to reverse the decline and save our native wild Atlantic salmon.
Read his latest blog here.
King Charles addressing the Missing Salmon Alliance, of which the GWCT is one of five founder member organisations, in 2019.
Capercaillie – Scotland’s biggest grouse on the brink of extinction – 10p coin
Capercaillie numbers in Scotland have nearly halved in ten years, with as few as 304 birds remaining in 2020. This iconic bird used to be widespread but is now mainly just found in pockets of old pine forest in the Cairngorms National Park.
In the 1970s there were around 20,000 capercaillie left in Scotland, but by 1999 only 1,073 were thought to remain.
During a ten-year-long GWCT study (2010-2020), numbers declined by 48%, with the biggest decline seen in the last five years of the study.
Rory Kennedy, the GWCT’s Director for Scotland, said: “We’re looking at 20 to 30 years before capercaillie are likely to become extinct in Scotland unless action is taken.
“To reverse the trend, conservation measures must be stepped up, including predator control, reducing the predation risk by pine marten, and marking and removing deer fences. Many birds die in collisions with deer fences.”
GWCT research: How many capercaillie are left in Scotland?
Bees – Our pollinators need all the help they can get – £1 coin
The GWCT’s BEESPOKE was launched in 2019 with the aim of increasing the diversity of insect pollinators and crop yields by 10%.
Scientists working on the project developed bespoke seed mixes and habitat management guidelines to support the suite of pollinators required for 14 crop types, including soft fruits, top fruit and grassland, across 72 demonstration sites.
By showing farmers how they can increase their yields by supporting pollinators, they are encouraged to establish new wildflower areas.
The project, funded by £4.1m from the EU’s North Sea Region Interreg Programme, ran until 2023 and brought together 16 project partners from the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and Sweden. They included policy makers, research institutes, advisory bodies and farmer co-operatives.