Celebrating World Wetlands Day 2024

As we mark World Wetlands Day 2024, BASC’s head of land management and consenting, Sarah Pinnell, explains what makes wetlands so special and pays tribute to the work carried out to protect and enhance them.

Wetlands have underpinned the development of civilisations for thousands of years, providing people with access to waterfowl, fish, other food and freshwater for crops and livestock.

The aim of World Wetlands Day, which is celebrated annually on 2 February, is to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and planet. So let’s go back to BASC’s beginnings to see how the seeds sown in the past are taking root and flourishing, now and for the future.

Protecting habitats from the outset

BASC’s predecessor, the Wildfowlers’ Association of Great Britain and Ireland (WAGBI), was founded by Stanley Duncan in 1908 to:

  • Help professional wildfowlers, who were earning a meagre living on our coasts.  
  • Address his alarm at the increasing drainage and subsequent development of much wildfowl habitat. 
  • Address the growing need to defend wildfowling, largely against the growing enthusiasm of extremists seeking the total protection of wild birds.

WAGBI pioneered the movement to promote, maintain and protect our historic sport and wild habitats. BASC remains determined to continue this work for generations to come, thanks to the support of our 150,000 members and more than 140 members of staff. 

sunrise on the humber
Sunrise at Barton-on-Humber

What we do

There are a range of ways in which BASC actively assists in the creation and conservation of wetland habitats, but here in the UK and abroad. 

BASC-affiliated wildfowling clubs

Strategic partnerships, such as with The Crown Estate (TCE) provide a foundation for collaborative action, fostering sustainable shooting practices and contributing to a healthier, more biodiverse future for valuable ecosystems. Wildfowling on TCE sites stretches to over 660 linear kilometres, involving 65 sporting rights leases. 

Collaborative efforts ensure that wetlands are managed effectively by more than 140 BASC-affiliated clubs, contributing to biodiversity, conservation and sustainable shooting practices for the benefit of wildlife and society as a whole.

The BASC Wildlife Fund

The BASC Wildlife Fund offers financial support to shoots, clubs, syndicates and others for hands-on conservation initiatives and sustainable land management. Thanks to donations from members, the BWF provides loans for land purchase and grants for conservation projects in the UK. The BWF has also funded international projects, where these relate to UK migratory species.

Since January 2020, the BWF has awarded more than £467,000 in grants for a range of conservation projects.

Lindisfarne Permit Scheme

Lindisfarne’s wildfowling permit scheme is run by Natural England and administered in partnership with its National Nature Reserve team and BASC. The scheme demonstrates the continually developing proactive and positive working relationship between BASC and Natural England. 

Described by James Green, BASC’s head of wildfowl and wetlands as “an exemplar model for the delivery of a sustainable wildfowling scheme”, the initiative continues to go from strength-to-strength. Find out more here.

Fenland wildfowlers
Wetlands managed by Fenland Wildfowlers Association

BASC involvement in science, research and best practice 

BASC’s evidence and environmental law team undertake and commission research on a wide variety of current and future topics that affect waterfowl. This research, and the findings it produces, helps gather data and fill knowledge gaps. This is crucial to secure the future of sustainable shooting and to safeguard and manage our valuable ecosystems.

Partnership working

BASC’s partnership work sees us operating closely with conservation organisations such as Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT). These partnerships have borne engagement opportunities with the CEO of Natural England, and initiatives such as information sharing events with local advisors from regulatory bodies. A recent event saw staff from Natural England attend WWT sites at Martin Mere and Slimbridge for the day to discuss all things wildfowling.

Representatives from BASC sit on the Natural England consenting advisory group in order to “protect the long-term future of traditional, and sustainable, wildfowling within and outside of the English protected site network to influence a measured and evidence-based approach to the consenting of wildfowling.”

To find out more about wildfowling, click here.