15 May 2011

Marsh Fritillary Information

You may be aware from recent press reports that the National Parks and Wildlife Service has decided to embark on a limited survey of Marsh Fritillary in Ireland, in partial fulfilment of national obligations under the Habitats Directive. A contract to carry out a survey has been advertised on www.etenders.gov.ie. You may find details on this website and you can register, without obligation, and obtain further information. However, you should note that the period available to submit a tender is unusually, if not extraordinarily, short. So act quickly if you want the contract!   

Unfortunately, some disinformation has been spread with regard to DNFC and its butterfly database (‘Butterfly Ireland’) which contains the information collected by you the Recorders. 

So, we would like to set the record straight in this regard. It is indeed true that DNFC has not made YOUR RECORDS available to the NPWS. Butterfly Conservation (UK) has been given access to use information on a 10 km basis only as agreed c.1997. This 10 km information is in the public domain on our website!  

DNFC was indeed approached by the NPWS and requested to make available records on the Marsh Fritillary in its National Database. 
At meetings with the NPWS, we expressed our concerns about the vulnerability of Recorders and DNFC, with regard to possible legal action by landowners who might pursue either/both for trespass or seek damages, if they were as a consequence restricted in the management of their property etc. 
We asked the NPWS for clarification as to whether or not there was any way of protecting the identity of Recorders if this information was released or if there was any mechanism for indemnification. This is any issue of which the NPWS has been aware for longer than a decade. In addition, we sought reassurance that the information would not be released for the commercial benefit of others. Our sense of this meeting was that our concerns were of little interest to the NPWS.  

Our concerns, summarised above have not been addressed or responded to at all, although the first official meeting took place in August 2010. We did not even obtain clarification as to precisely what detail was requested!  Although indirectly and implicitly, it appears that information being sought was at a higher resolution than 1 km.  
At the end of March we received a letter from the NPWS, WITHDRAWING ITS REQUEST FOR DATA  and stating inter alia that, since we had not cooperated, the NBDC would be setting up an alternative butterfly recording scheme [to duplicate Butterfly Ireland]. Unfortunately, the contents of this letter are of such a tone and nature that we feel that we should not release it to you.  

After the receipt of this letter, we sought and were granted a meeting with the NPWS at a senior level. This meeting was held in early April, but to date no response has been received in relation to matters raised.

We did offer to explore ways in which it might be possible to assist the NPWS in its statutory duties. 

We have not been in a position to consult you about the possible release of your records, since we were unable to receive the necessary clarifications from the NPWS. We know from discussions with a small number of Recorders that some would be extremely unhappy at releasing records at a resolution finer than 1 km and that such a happening would most likely result in an end to access to many sites. We also understand that MothsIreland has not facilitated the release of information on a resolution greater than 1 km to the NBDC. 

As stated above, the NPWS has withdrawn its request to DNFC for data. However, as a Recorder, you may personally wish to supply your Marsh Fritillary data to the NPWS, “In the National Interest”. If so, then please do so directly. Its address is Ely Place, Dublin 2.  
Our advice to you, in absence of any reassurance to the contrary, is that once you have released this infomation it is effectively in the public domain and anyone can request it and receive a copy of it. So you possibly could be vulnerable if you did not obtain the landowners permission for access. 

In the meanwhile, DNFC is containing its butterfly recording and all records continue to be most welcome. It has been an extremely early season and when the VIPs have all gone the current weather should improve!

15 May 2011