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UPDATE – August 22 – 2018

BASC today met with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Scottish Association for Country Sports (SACS), local wildfowling clubs, Caerlaverock Community Association and the Caerlaverock Estate to explore how wildfowling on the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve can be better resourced and managed.

Considering proposals made by SNH to run a reduced permit scheme in the coming year, it was agreed that a more creative way of sharing costs was needed.

SNH agreed to work with local clubs to establish a formal service-level agreement that would enable clubs to appoint shoot monitors and work with SNH to ensure compliance with the terms of permits.

These monitors would need training, which BASC offered to provide. In addition, the national clubs agreed that they could contribute to any legal costs arising in drawing up such an agreement.

It was agreed that the permits should allow a maximum bag of five birds per flight.

If this agreement can be put in place, then monitoring can take place confidently in close proximity to wildfowlers so enabling the relaxation of the restricted area previously proposed for shooting.

There was a strong ambition that the season could start at the beginning of September as usual, but regrettably this might be over ambitious and unrealistic.

SNH agreed that wildfowlers needed some certainty as to when shooting might take place to allow wildfowlers to plan. The intent is to have a scheme in place that will commence as soon as possible – though clearly this depends on rapid progress in drafting and concluding an agreement.  Once heads of terms are agreed, a date can be set.

There was further discussion about whether permits should allow the shooting of ducks. SNH argued that, given the absence of ducks on the reserve last year, a precautionary approach should be taken to disallow duck shooting.

This was hotly contested as the science shows that more widely in the Solway there is no decline in duck numbers such as to justify a ban. The local issues at Caerlaverock could be addressed through voluntary restraint.

Such a voluntary approach could be encouraged through monitoring if numbers of duck are once again very low on the reserve. Punt gunning was also discussed and SNH remains of the view that this shifts duck roost away from the reserve and the zero count of duck last year is not consistent with a nature reserve. Given the relatively few outings of punt guns, it was agreed that these outings should fall under the monitoring process.

It was agreed that the new approach needs careful management with a proper review undertaken at an early stage. This could inform improvement of the arrangement if necessary and also feed into a wider community consultation around reserve byelaws and the ongoing management of wildfowling and all the other uses of the reserve in the coming year.

The meeting ended amicably with immediate action to draft heads of terms for an agreement being taken forward by SNH, the local and the national clubs.

UPDATE – August 10, 2018:

  • BASC, as well as the two local affiliated clubs, have written to all the relevant MSPs as well as the responsible cabinet secretary and chair and chief executive of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) seeking a return to the status quo for wildfowling on Caerlaverock.
  • Following discussion with SNH, a meeting of all stakeholders will now be held on August 21.

Original Statement (August 7, 2018)

On the 6 August 2018, BASC was informed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) that they have decided to make significant changes to the way the wildfowling permit system on this famous reserve on the Solway estuary is to be administered. This notification comes just three weeks before the start of the wildfowling season on the 1 September.

The email we received, which has subsequently been sent to all who have had wildfowling permits in previous seasons, refers to the challenge faced by SNH given the decline in their budget and how best to run a financially sustainable scheme at Caerlaverock.

While we were aware of the SNH concerns, and have participated in meetings with them and others earlier this year, we had also offered to help in recent weeks by explaining how BASC, throughout the UK, assists with wildfowling management at other sites. This offer had not been accepted.

The SNH proposals are (“subject to the resources being found and the risks adequately addressed”):

  • The permit scheme will not start until mid-October – six weeks after the start of the season
  • There will be no wildfowling for two weeks at Christmas – traditionally a favoured time for local and visiting wildfowlers
  • No shooting to take place on Fridays and Saturdays – normally the only time local wildfowlers can enjoy their sport
  • Changes in boundary that restricts shooting area
  • A reduction in the number of permits issued, from 188 last season to a maximum of 90
  • A bag limit of four birds
  • No shooting of any ducks – “this is because the numbers of ducks was (sic) extremely low last year”
  • No punt-gunning permits

Dr Colin Shedden, BASC director Scotland said: “These restrictions not only decrease levels of participation in wildfowling, for locals and visitors alike, but reduce the area available to wildfowlers and the quarry that could legally be shot.

“There are no documented or justifiable reasons of safety or shooting behaviour to support these proposals and instead of producing long-term data on overwintering duck populations, as one would expect from a statutory conservation body, reference is just made to a subjective comment on low duck numbers.

“In addition to the impact on wildfowlers themselves, SNH must consider the knock-on financial effect to the many hotels and holiday cottages that visiting wildfowlers use, as well as many other local businesses.

“While we were unable to discuss these suggested proposals with SNH area staff on the 7 August we have spoken with senior SNH staff.  It was agreed that it would clearly be in everyone’s interest to meet as soon as possible and seek to resolve both the concerns of SNH, that appear to be resource-focussed, and those of local and visiting wildfowling interests.  BASC Scotland hope to attend such a meeting with SNH, Caerlaverock and District Wildfowlers and Scottish Solway Wildfowlers Association.”

 

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