The Chairman's Letter
by Tony Williams
As published in the July 2016 magazine
Welcome to our new look cover for The Bounty – formerly The UK Log. This was one of the ideas resulting from the meeting of your committee in January, where we wanted to give our magazine a fresh identity and improved recognition. We hope that you like it.
Also at that meeting, we discussed plans on how we might celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Society in 2018 by holding a special event to commemorate this milestone. Plans will be developed during this year, hopefully involving the US Pitcairn Islands Study Group and possibly the Captain Cook Society. We will keep you advised of progress, but in the meantime we would welcome any ideas from members on how we can make this a memorable occasion.
At the Society’s Spring meeting at Doggett’s Coat and Badge in London Blackfriars (a new trial venue for the Society) we were treated to a display of artwork and handicrafts from Pitcairn by Society members. Thanks especially to Alan Fillmore and Austin Meares for showing us their impressive collections.
In the afternoon Graham Ford showed a DVD he had made of his visit to Norfolk Island, cleverly interspersed with movie footage of the Island from former days, to give a unique perspective. Our thanks to Graham for an entertaining film presentation.
I am pleased to report on much current activity regarding Pitcairn. In May I attended a meeting of the Pitcairn Environmental Forum hosted by the Pew Trusts, where we received feedback on the establishment of the 322,000 square mile Pitcairn Marine Reserve, the largest in the Pacific. So far the monitoring and policing of the Reserve is showing encouraging results. Through the use of satellite imaging technology, radar and auto signalling identification of vessels, there have to date been no reports of illegal fishing boat activity. Also the monitoring technology is being strengthened by the development of a ‘Wave Glider’ drone which was launched in the spring. It is a small self-propelled, instrument-bearing boat tethered to a submersible, which can stay at sea for months and take photographs of fishing vessels in restricted areas and relay them by satellite to a watch centre in the UK.
We also received an update from the RSPB on the rat eradication programme on Henderson Island. Whilst the programme has been perceived as a failure, the assessment is that no more than 50 rats survived, but unfortunately that is enough to begin repopulating the Island. In the meantime, the numbers of endangered endemic birds, such as the Henderson Rail and Henderson Lorikeet expanded greatly, but this will only be a temporary effect and their numbers will go into decline once more. The RSPB are considering a second programme, but not until 2020, as their next priority is scheduled to be the rat eradication on Gough Island in the Tristan da Cunha group.
Another project that was reported is a Marine Management and Fisheries Plan (called the Darwin project) being developed for Pitcairn by Dundee University in conjunction with the Pew Trusts. The meeting was also joined by teleconference from Pitcairn by Michele Christian (Pitcairn’s environmental officer) who provided an informative update on other environmental initiatives on the Island, such as the census of the Pitcairn reed warbler, soil erosion containment and waste management plans.
In my previous Chairman’s letter, I outlined the situation concerning the uncertain future of Norfolk Island, given the move by Australia last year to dissolve the Island’s Legislative Assembly and to implement a full takeover this year. The implementation of direct rule by Australia is going ahead and is proving controversial. We can only hope that the Island’s cultural heritage and historical links to Pitcairn can be preserved in the long term throughout this process.
On a sad note, we have been advised of the recent death of Irma Christian on Pitcairn. Our President Jennifer Toombs paid the following tribute:
“She will be a great loss to the Island and also to us, as I'm sure many of you have happy memories of Irma and Ben's visit to the UK a few years ago. She was a very warm, loving lady and she'll be very sadly missed.”
In closing may I wish you all a good summer and I look forward to meeting many of you at our Annual General Meeting on 1st October 2016.