The formation of the Local Nature Reserve at Wigtown Bay was first suggested by wildfowlers in 1982. Wigtown Bay Wildfowlers’ Association was subsequently formed in 1987. The establishment of the LNR in 1995 was precipitated by the purchase of Maidland Merse and Castle Field by the club, funded by SNH, WHT and Dumfries and Galloway Council.
The formation of this LNR, the largest in Scotland, saw the regulation of wildfowling with the support of members of both the Wigtown club and Creetown Wildfowlers. Even before the byelaws were finalised a system of permits for wildfowling was introduced. At that time there were 109 seasonal permits for the Wigtown Club, 20 for the Creetown club and 45 weekly visitor permits for non-club members.
The Crook of Baldoon is farmland and merse lying to the south of the LNR. Wildfowling on this area was out with LNR byelaw control and was enjoyed by both resident and visiting wildfowlers under the public right to recreation on the Scottish foreshore.
In 2010 RSPB Scotland purchased the Crook of Baldoon, with £200,000 of grant aid from SNH. Their aims for the land included the creation of wetland habitat for both breeding and wintering waterfowl and waders, providing a year round attraction. A condition of the grant aid was that the Crook of Baldoon would become part of the LNR. RSPB had inherited the shooting that took place along a 10 metre strip below the merse that was currently public shooting. They indicated at the time that they would like to see their land as a “no shoot zone”. The shooting at the Crook of Baldoon was probably the best goose shooting on the whole of Wigtown Bay.
There then followed a series of meetings between RSPB, BASC and the local wildfowling clubs, the first chaired by BASC in March 2011. During these discussions an agreement was reached by the clubs, supported by BASC, and RSPB that a recommendation would be put to the Local Authority. This allowed for the continuation of wildfowling on the 10 metre strip on the foreshore in front of the Crook of Baldoon, apart from the area immediately in front of the proposed RSPB visitor centre. In addition, wildfowlers would still be able to use the RSPB car park, access the foreshore from there and shoot from the creeks. Visitor permits would also cover shooting on Saturdays – previously they had been restricted to Monday to Friday.
We had hoped that by now these agreed changes would have been incorporated into the byelaws for the LNR.
Nevertheless, the Local Authority would like to have the new byelaws in place for the start of the 2014/15 season. This would mean consultation on the byelaws taking place this spring/summer.
The byelaw review will be for the whole LNR, since the original byelaws also need updating to comply with current access legislation.
Despite the Local Authority’s desire to have byelaws in place by September 2014 this is not guaranteed. BASC Scotland’s position is that byelaws should not be introduced mid-season so if the 1st September deadline is missed there should be no change to wildfowling for the 2014/15 season.
It is also the intention of the Local Authority to charge £25 for each permit i.e. weekly and seasonal. The clubs and BASC Scotland are not happy with this proposal as it would appear that the costs are in excess of actual administration costs.
Currently, wildfowling at the Crook of Baldoon continues as before. There are no new restrictions, byelaws or need for a permit.
Crook of Baldoon image above by Istockphoto.com/creativenaturemedia