Joan Walley served in parliament for 28 years as MP for Stoke on Trent North. During that time she was a longstanding officer of the All Party Parliamentary Football Group as well as a shadow minister for Transport and then Environment. From 2010 -2015 she chaired the Environmental Audit Select Committee, scrutinising government policy and overseeing over 40 hearings and reports into the environmental issues of our age. Passionate about football – she is a proud Valiant Port Vale FC season ticket holder and now honorary patron of its Supporters Club-, and a passionate advocate of the measures needed to protect nature, she has taken on the honorary role of Chairing the Aldersgate Group since retiring from parliament.
“I have designated the basking shark as the one species to attach my name to. Its the natural choice because I was introduced to its plight while on a pre season Football Tournament in the Isle of Man watching my beloved Port Vale play. The then Chief Minister took me aside and asked me to do all in my power to help get endangered species status for this giant of the local marine life. I followed this request up to the best of my ability and my campaign ended with protected species status in Isle of Man waters, then the UK, and finally internationally through the CITES agreement. I was awarded a special commendation at the annual Tynwold for my role in securing this protected species status.
At home in Stoke at the following general election I was ridiculed by my conservative opponent for having stood up for the basking shark. He claimed it was a sign of my lack of concern and compassion for the people of Stoke on Trent. What he failed to realise is that nature is interlinked and even Staffordshire is not a marine coastal area, wildlife and nature protection matters whichever part of the world we happen to live in.
Despite their size, we still don’t know a lot about the basking shark, but for me the species represents all creatures and wildlife great or small threatened with extinction. Whether it is standing up and giving a voice to the basking shark or protecting the skylarks here in Staffordshire I am in no doubt as to the urgency, understanding and awareness which is now needed to protect our beautiful planet.
I encourage everyone who cares about the environment to redouble their efforts to support the call for action to protect all threatened species. “