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The Use of Wild Living Resources in the UK
- A Review

This project reviewed the uses made of wild, living resources in the United Kingdom.  These resources were defined so as to exclude animals that were captive-reared for any part of their life history and plants that were cultivated or otherwise caused to grow in the wild. It is necessarily illustrative rather than exhaustive, reflecting the uneven distribution of data on use of living resources and, accordingly, it is likely to under-estimate the extent and contribution of such uses to the UK.
In the UK a wide range of species are used for both consumptive and non-consumptive purposes.  Despite many uses not being documented, collectively they are significant in socio-economic terms accounting for a minimum contribution of £4,800 million to the UK economy and supporting 35,000 jobs.  This figure is equivalent to some 0.5% of the United Kingdom’s gross domestic product for the year 2000.  By contrast, agriculture accounts for some 1-2% of GDP.
Whilst this economic benefit is largely derived from the intense exploitation of a relatively few species for food (e.g. marine fish), for sport (e.g. red grouse, salmon and other freshwater fish) or for wildlife viewing (birds and marine mammals), a much wider range of species are used at a smaller scale. 
Commercial demand for many products outstrips supply from the wild in the UK. This demand is, therefore, met through imports, mainly from Europe.  In other cases, wild harvests are supplemented or replaced by more intensive production systems with a variety of associated risks and benefits.
Whilst demand for wild living resources for consumptive or non-consumptive purposes provides an incentive for their conservation and management, often these compete poorly with alternative uses of land or water, many of which may be, or have been, directly or indirectly subsidised by the UK or European Community.  Such support mechanisms are increasingly being reformed to enhance their environmental benefit and to avoid ‘perverse incentives’.
Uses of wild, living resources in the UK vary in their sustainability and, accordingly, the guidelines on sustainable use developed by SBSTTA are as relevant for application to the UK as anywhere.  Indeed, even though the UK as a developed country does not have a primary reliance on biodiversity, the use and conservation of our wildlife continues to make a significant contribution to our economy, to employment and to the enjoyment and well being of the UK’s population.  In countries with a richer resource of biodiversity, the benefits are likely to be greater still.

Project Working Group

Martin Murray - MGM Environmental Solutions Limited
Helen Simcox - MGM Environmental Solutions Limited
The IUCN European Sustainable Use Specialist Group also used the report as the basis for a pamphlet for the 3rd World Conservation Congress, held in Bangkok Thailand, entitled "Wealth from the Wild".
  • "Wealth from the Wild" (PDF, 2436 kb - please note this file may take some moments to download)

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