'Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, although after the travelling I have done this week, I am not quite sure I have adjusted back to Manx time!
'It is a privilege to be invited to open today’s event, which marks the start of Manx Wildlife Week.'
A stimulating programme is promised and I am only sorry that other commitments prevent me from staying for the entire day.
Our environment, its conservation and its sustainability, is highly important to the Isle of Man.
It is a major driver towards people coming to live, work and visit here – something we need if we are to continue to grow our economy and retain the quality of life we enjoy.
Indeed, our biodiversity is a key part of our quality of life.
However busy we are, the majority of us find time to enjoy a walk in our hills, a stroll through our glens or a few moments gazing out to sea or enjoying some of the marine leisure activities available to us.
In the Programme for Government, we recognise that our natural environment is among the Isle of Man’s greatest assets.
We pledge to encourage use of the countryside and commit to caring for our land and sea and improving environmental standards.
But we cannot do it alone.
Manx National Heritage has organised Manx Wildlife Week on behalf of the Manx Biological Recording Partnership.
MNH is probably best known for preserving the Island’s built heritage.
But it is also the National Trust for the Island and has responsibility for land management, biodiversity and natural history collections.
In order to conserve and improve our biodiversity, we are also heavily reliant on the dozens of conservation and wildlife charities, organisations and volunteers who are out and about doing great work, week in, week out.
I am pleased that many of them are represented today.
There seems to be increasing interest in the environment and we hear more about the ‘citizen scientist’ and about people getting involved.
In the Isle of Man, we are lucky that we have nature right on our doorsteps.
And in these days of social media it’s far easier to share information and images, so our knowledge is improving.
But man’s affinity with the environment stretches back as long as he has existed, and our love of the landscape is what has shaped us as an Island.
We’ve recently seen a good example of how long the Island has enjoyed a rich biodiversity with the discovery of the 12,000 year old skeleton of a Great Deer.
The museum is arranging scientific analysis of this and we look forward to hearing more about it in due course.
Having information on our species and habitats is a critical tool for preserving and managing our rich biodiversity.
The awarding of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status did not happen by accident but as a result of our wish to achieve greater sustainability in our Island life.
The focal point of Manx Wildlife Week is the launch, of the first ever National Biodiversity Atlas for the Isle of Man.
My Government has, of course, for many years, worked with MNH, the Manx Wildlife Trust and other third sector partners to formally record flora and fauna.
The expertise, relationships and data gathering ability built up between the partners have now led to this exciting new ‘living atlas’ of the Isle of Man.
This is the largest citizen science project ever attempted on the Island and will really put our wildlife ‘on the map.'
This week of events is all about raising awareness of it.
The Atlas allows any of us to see what plant and animal species occur, either outside our front doors or in specific habitats.
We hope the Atlas will encourage our whole community to be more mindful of our wildlife and habitats and their importance.
You will hear today from many of the contributors to the Atlas.
Our course, with increasing knowledge and more readily accessible information, the threats to our environment are more readily understood, too.
We have an incredible marine nature reserve, from Ramsey to the Point of Ayre: almost 100 square kilometres in size and a shining example of Government working with the fishing industry, environment groups and leisure users to protect globally important habitats.
The reserve epitomises our UNESCO Biosphere status: people and nature existing side by side.
More than 50% of our inshore waters now form a network of 10 Marine Protected Areas, protecting our fantastic marine biodiversity and promoting sustainable fisheries which are the envy of our neighbours.
And yet we hear much about the damage to our marine environment posed by plastics.
We cannot stop the plastic tide, as it has been labelled, but we can stop adding to it.
I have charged DEFA with drawing up a strategy to reduce plastic use locally, starting with Government, so that we in the Island, at least, are doing our bit.
This strategy will be unveiled in Tynwald very soon.
We are improving our infrastructure to ensure that untreated sewage does not continue to enter our seas.
And we are doing all we can to draw attention to the threats to the environment posed by invasive species, with Minister Boot helping to launch a British Isles-wide awareness week recently at the British-Irish Council.
The much loved song Ellan Vannin celebrates the Island ‘with its green hills by the sea.'
We all have our part to play to ensure the Island remains a special place to live, work and visit.
Today’s gathering – and the week of events to come – are a collaborative exercise and I am grateful to all who have made them happen.
I hope you have an enjoyable day exploring nature’s value:
- Our economy
- Our wellbeing
- Our sense of place
- Our survival in a changing world