Cornwall Wildlife Trust Vice-President wins prestigious Conservation Award

Thursday 30th November 2017

From L - R The Wildlife Trusts CEO Stphanie Hilborne, Dr Nick Tregenza with Award and TWT President Tony Juniper

Cornwall Wildlife Trust is proud to announce that its Vice-President Dr Nick Tregenza has been awarded the highly prestigious Christopher Cadbury Medal in recognition of his work to advance nature conservation in the British Isles.

Nick’s experience and authoritative advice on issues related to marine mammals has been sought by many organisations over the years and has had a strong influence on conservation policy.

Now aged 72, Nick’s infectious enthusiasm has been raising people’s awareness of the need for conservation ever since childhood. He spent 30 years as a GP and there is certainly a ‘doctorly’ aura of kindliness, reassurance and gentle authority about the way he chairs meetings and presents the case for conservation.

Mark Nicholson, Chair of Trustees at Cornwall Wildlife Trust says,

“Nick’s dedication, ingenuity, and infectious enthusiasm have been a great inspiration to many people – myself included. This latest award for his lifetime of commitment and achievement is richly deserved, and I’m sure he will continue to make significant breakthroughs in his future conservation work.”

Early examples of his persuasiveness include a national campaign which he jointly led in the 1980s to encourage people to buy chocolates instead of daffodils for Mothers’ Day. This raised awareness of the effect that organochlorine pesticides on bulb fields were having on otters. The use of dieldrin was banned soon after, and Cornwall’s otter population boomed.

Also in the 1980s, he instigated a campaign to highlight the incursion of agriculture into the Penwith Moors. Interested parties were brought together at a large public meeting at which his presentation led to West Penwith becoming one of the first five designated Environmentally Sensitive Areas.

He is best known for his pioneering work in raising both awareness and public involvement in the conservation of whales, dolphins and other large sea creatures. In 1989 he set up a voluntary research group to collect data on marine strandings and live sightings. He played a crucial role in proving, and alerting the world to, the existence of the substantial bycatch issue.

In the next few years, Nick succeeded in persuading fishery businesses to allow observers onto their boats – and volunteers to take on this daunting task – in what would be the UK’s first ever dedicated bycatch observer programmes.

Around the same time he was a founder of ‘Seaquest Southwest’, which continues today as a perfect illustration of how to involve the public in conservation data gathering – in this case sightings of large sea creatures.

Nick’s lifelong commitment to conservation, under the umbrella of The Wildlife Trusts, is evident in his record of office. He has been a Trustee of Cornwall Wildlife Trust for nearly 40 years and its Vice-President since 2012.
He was Chair of the Trust from 1984 to 1997. In this position, he oversaw dramatic and important Trust developments. In the years leading up to 1988, its staff rose to about 80 thanks to a Manpower Services Commission scheme. With the sudden removal of that funding source, the staff level was reduced to one. Under Nick’s guidance, the Trust then grew to become a significant employer in its own right and Cornwall’s leading wildlife conservation charity.

His dedication to the cause of conservation is exemplified in an incident during the early days of his fishery observer programmes. At first, there was huge resistance from the industry, and one day he was chased all the way along St Ives seafront by an irate fisherman. But Nick had the courage and determination to carry on, and ultimately he won the fishing community’s respect.

Over the last 20 years or so he has become known as the world’s leading authority on the development and use of instruments for monitoring marine mammals acoustically.

His ‘C-PODs’, originally invented in his garden shed and now developed and manufactured as a small business, are in use worldwide. They provide a practical and economical way of surveying marine mammals remotely. His work in this field was recognised by the British Zoological Society in 2016 with the Stamford Raffles Award.

Nick and his C-PODs have been heavily involved in projects to develop, improve and deploy ‘pingers’ – acoustic deterrent devices which are starting to reduce bycatch in certain fisheries.

C-PODs are available for sale and are being used by researchers from the Arctic to the Amazon and on every continent. However, Nick never allows an important project to go without C-PODs or technical support for lack of money. (See www.chelonia.co.uk for more)

And Dr Tregenza isn’t finished yet! He is currently working on an instrument to log bat activity, with the ambition of making one that will record for a year, unattended, in a tropical rainforest.