Wildfowling on Findhorn Bay is under serious threat of a ban by by-law due to the behaviour of some participants and intense lobbying by local anti-shooters. There has been negative press and, last season, many local and visiting wildfowlers had to abandon their lawful activities due to disruption.

The following is an update of steps taken by BASC as a representative body to ensure the future of wildfowling on the Bay. 

BASC has been involved in the development of a voluntary wildfowling permit system for the forthcoming 2017/18 wildfowling season. Forres, Nairn and District Wildfowlers (FNDW) and BASC have supported the introduction of a permit system for wildfowling, underpinned by by-laws, for many years.

Moray Council has been reluctant to progress this matter, primarily due to the cost. BASC has acted with the support of the local wildfowling club and other shooting organisations to try to develop a system that would ultimately ensure the long-term viability of wildfowling on this site and, in the short-term, address problems that arose last season.

Following unsuccessful petitions from both sides, Moray Council asked Roy Dennis, chairman of Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve Management Committee, to hold discussions with wildfowlers, conservationists, local interests and Police Scotland.

BASC organised a meeting of all wildfowling interests on October 20, 2016 to reach agreement on which four wildfowling representatives would progress matters and to discuss BASC’s queries surrounding a voluntary permit system for 2017/18. This would possibly be followed by a by-law permit system for 2018/19.

Four representatives were agreed, including Martin Gauld or Alex Stoddart to represent The Scottish Association for Country Sports (SACS), Peter Boulton, Bob McKay of FNDW and BASC’s Scotland director Colin Shedden.

On the November 8, 2016, all four met with Roy Dennis to discuss the details of a voluntary permit system and this was followed by a meeting on December 13, 2017 involving all interests, including Friends of Findhorn, the pressure group seeking to ban all wildfowling.

The minutes of the AGM of the Management Committee on March 28, 2017 state:

All parties (attending the meeting on December 13, 2016) agreed to the following points:

  • Findhorn Bay is an important wildlife site with the following designations: SSSI,SPA, Ramsar Site and LNR.
  • The conflict between high numbers of unregulated wildfowlers and significant numbers of the local community is now serious and must be addressed.
  • That a voluntary, self-regulated permit scheme should be set up for the season 2017/2018.
  • That for subsequent seasons, by-laws should be enacted and a permit system operated by the Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve. It was suggested that this be overseen by a wildfowling sub-committee of the FBLNR Management Committee.

Before the March 2017 AGM, Roy Dennis once again met with the wildfowling representatives. Draft permit applications were subsequently produced and considered by all.

SACS and the local wildfowling club, which were fully involved in all of the relevant meetings, have withdrawn their support for the voluntary permit scheme. Before the Wildfowling Sub-Committee meeting on June 21, 2017, BASC sought detailed comment on the most recent iteration of the voluntary permit system and a number of proposals. Replies to this included copied correspondence with Moray Council and an email from SACS stating that there was opposition to two of the proposals and that all wildfowling interests must be united. BASC agree with the sentiment that wildfowling interests should be united.

BASC’s position is that a considerable amount of time and energy has been invested, not least Roy Dennis and all wildfowling interests, to address the issues that arose last season and to establish a voluntary permit system. We appreciate that some wildfowling interests are now critical of the proposed system.

There are no by-laws supporting this voluntary permit system or the associated conditions, so they have no basis in law. It is hoped, however, that local and visiting wildfowlers will support this system and that lessons learned in this coming season, both good and bad, will be used to guide and inform the introduction of a future permit system to ensure the long-term viability of sustainable wildfowling on Findhorn Bay.

Due to Findhorn Bay’s LNR status, Moray Council has the ability to push for by-laws that could ban wildfowling. This would be a first for Scotland.

Further information on the conditions relating to the voluntary visitor permit system for Findhorn Bay can be found at http://basc.org.uk/basc-scotland/

Garry Doolan

Garry Doolan is BASC’s deputy director of communications and public affairs. He has more than 20 years experience of journalism and the media. He joined the organisation in 2016 and is a keen shooter and beater, with his springer spaniel Quincy.

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