A comprehensive review into the impacts of releasing gamebirds, part-funded by BASC/Natural England, has been published. The review identifies and evaluates relevant peer-reviewed and ‘grey’ literature to produce an up-to-date summary of the direct and indirect impacts of releasing gamebirds.
The publication comes at an important time to inform the outcomes of Defra’s own review on gamebird release and the current judicial review on the process examining European protected designated sites. As questions are asked about the impact of releasing gamebirds, this review will aid discussion and help mould policies.
The popularity of shooting over the past few decades has led to an increase in released gamebirds. This has subsequently led to an increased interest in the impacts of our activities.
The review condenses the impacts of releasing gamebirds to direct effects (the process of releasing the gamebirds) and associated effects (the wider work undertaken to benefit the gamebird). The authors agree that the associated effects such as woodland management, supplementary feeding and predator control leave a predominantly positive mark on the landscape.
It also highlights that releasing gamebirds in ‘very large’ numbers can have negative effects – but explains that some of these effects can be improved by following best practice relating to release sizes and densities alongside consideration of release site locations and the rearing conditions of gamebirds. Best practice can also be used to aid the positive impacts relating to the wider activities of game management. All in all, there is space to learn and mature.
BASC’s involvement shows that we are not scared of tackling areas of concern. In this instance, it is also useful to prompt discussions that can help us find solutions. In the round, if a practice leaves a net negative impact, some levels of mitigation, be it code of practice or other, should be undertaken. Activities that leave a net positive impact should be enhanced and widened.
We know that shooting is an overall net positive especially when including the social and economic benefits (neither of which were considered in this review). However, we also know that we can do better, hence applying resources to those conflict areas to ensure shooting has a bright future.
Appropriately I will leave the last word to the authors:
“To achieve net positive ecological outcomes for the habitats and wildlife of England, it is necessary to carefully consider and act to simultaneously reduce the negative and enhance the positive effects of gamebird release, both today and in the future.”