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Wildfowling Conference 2016

Wildfowling Conference 2016 –  Saturday 12 March 2016.


New online bag recording system

Paul Williamson, BASC Rural Land Development Manager

BASC manages the collation of the Crown Estate bag returns and annual management reports. On reviewing the current paper based systems it was apparent that there was a need for a more efficient system for members, clubs and BASC.

A modern, innovative and user friendly way of online bag recording, bag reporting and species recording will be of immense value to members, clubs, BASC, Crown Estate and Statutory Agencies.

The Crown Estate is very supportive of the initiative and has provided significant funding.

Due to the success and robustness of BASC’s Green Shoots website and mapping functionality it was decided to incorporate bag recording and reporting within this suite to create “Map it”, “Custom Maps”, “Seen It”, “Bagged it” and “Manage it” pages.

All BASC members will be able to input data (bag returns and species recording) into an electronic platform (PC/ tablet/ phone) which can then be stored and analysed by the individual. Where an individual is shooting over club land, returns can be submitted via the software to the club.

Clubs will continue to have a designated returns officer. The returns officers will manage the club’s shooting areas and returns via the new software. Clubs will then be able to produce shooting reports across both Crown and non-Crown shooting areas. Clubs will then be able to submit via the software the end of season Crown returns to BASC.


Update on club recruitment and retention

Mark Greenhough, BASC Wildfowling Officer

This presentation examines the current state of levels of recruitment and retention of members into BASC affiliated wildfowling clubs.  Recapping and building on last year’s presentation, this talk describes the numbers of people coming into wildfowling in the UK across the whole club network and those subsequently leaving the sport.   The headline figures are that recruitment is consistently going very well year-on-year with over 1000 people coming into wildfowling-but retaining those members is problematic with many choosing to leave within a year or two of joining.

New developments in the intervening year are BASC have undertaken visits to club committees to examine this issue in depth.  This has led to the discovery of a variety of approaches undertaken by clubs to improve retention of members.  Many if not all clubs are discovering the benefits of mentoring new recruits.  Some clubs are also reporting frustrations that despite providing various facilities for new members, the new recruits often do not come forward in large enough numbers to take advantage of the probationary opportunities.

Further statistical work has also taken place, examining the BASC membership database and this builds on the work last year and quantifies the state of recruitment of the preceding 5 year period.  This shows that over half of the club membership as a whole in the UK, have been recruited in the past 5 years.

Finally, there is a report on brand new BASC research into the causes of why people choose to leave wildfowling clubs.  This has been a topic of discussion and speculation for a long time.  For the first time ever, BASC members who have left wildfowling clubs were asked for their opinions and this presentation gives the reasons people join clubs, what shooting background they have, how long they remain in membership before leaving, the reasons they leave and what they would like to see clubs to encourage them to stay in club membership.


Report on AEWA meeting November 2015

Dr Matt Ellis, BASC Scientific Adviser

The African-Eurasian Waterbirds Agreement (AEWA) is an international treaty that extends from southern Africa, through Europe and into the Arctic. The treaty has the power to change quarry species, shooting seasons and even ammunition and so BASC has been involved, along with FACE, since it began.

Every three years there is a Meeting Of Parties (MOP) to discuss and ratify decisions. There were no major decisions affecting wildfowling this year, but there were a number of important activities in the fringes of the meeting including a poorly supported attempt to establish a task force to ban all lead ammunition.

BASC presented the work of its disturbance PhD student and the methods and results were well received. We hope that this will influence attitudes to disturbance at an international level.

Wigeon and pochard both received special attention. It is possible that there could be calls to restrict the shooting of pochard following the next MOP in 2018. Discussions about wigeon focused on poor breeding in Eastern Europe, and the WHT supported project in Belarus and the work of BASC and the WWT on Sarcocystis (rice breast) were both positively received pro-active actions to begin to address this decline.


Current issues relating to firearms ownership and what BASC is doing

Matthew Perring, Senior Firearms Officer, BASC

Much has happened since the awful events of Cumbria in 2011 and Horden in 2012. Whilst we must learn lessons from such incidents involving licenced firearms, there is much BASC has done to lead the way to the improvement of the licensing system for shooting whilst maintaining public safety. This requires skill and diligence as calls for change often focus on disproportionate restrictions.

Engagement with police and government has never been so important. BASC has the skillset and tenacity to represent shooting and not only to preserve it but improve the service on which it relies. Everyone from law enforcement to wildfowlers are receiving benefit from this improvement work.

From Law Commission reviews and inspections of the Constabulary to improved guidance and procedural doctrine. BASC are at the forefront of negotiations to improve systems to get gun owners their licences on time and without any undue complication, particularly borne out of risk aversion.

BASC is securing systems that will lead to streamlined and timely service whilst maintaining public safety. Empowering police to manage risk rather than avoid it has been our toughest challenge in recent years. We are making headway and the licensing system is becoming smart, targeted and timely.


Observed and predicted impacts of climate change on waterfowl

James Pearce-Higgins, Director of Science, British Trust for Ornithology

There is much discussed about climate change, and its impacts on wildlife. Firstly, I will briefly review recent climatic trends, the extent to which they are likely to have been caused by climate change, and what the IPCC suggests might be the magnitude of future climate change impacts. Secondly, using red grouse as an example, I will consider the role that climate plays in affecting where species occur, and their populations, before thirdly outlining for the UK, what the main impacts of climate change on bird species have been so far. In particular, this identifies positive effects of warmer spring and winter temperatures upon resident species, but more negative impacts on Afro-Palaearctic long-distance migrants, whose populations are particularly affected by rainfall in Africa. Species have also shifted their distributions northwards in recent decades.

Although the impacts of climate change on waterfowl have been relatively little studied in the UK, recent evidence suggests that these processes are also affecting them. Warmer winter temperatures are affecting the distribution of wintering waders and ducks, which are shifting their distributions north-eastwards into Europe. The maintenance of a protected area network has helped facilitate the expansion of some of these species. Looking to the future it is possible to use models to identify the species most likely to be affected by climate change. Some results for UK birds are presented, and used to discuss how the land management might have to respond to climate change.


NE guidance on consenting wildfowling – simplifying and improving the system

Sue Beale, Senior Specialist – Protected Sites, Natural England

Natural England is consulting with BASC and wildfowling clubs towards a more straight-forward process for consenting wildfowling on designated sites. The aim of the work is to ensure that, whilst sticking within the clear legal parameters, the process is led by good communication between Natural England and the relevant club and that any assessment undertaken is informed by the most up-to-date evidence and is proportionate to the activity. Delegates will be asked for their opinions on various suggested ways forward during the presentation.


Wildfowlers engagement with local conservation initiatives and working with others

Stephen Thompson, Walney Island WA

In the last few years Wildfowlers around Morecambe Bay have been working together to protect their rights and practices as Wildfowlers. The theme of working together is not lost on any of us. Working together and working with other groups and organisations has become a necessity and has produced some positive outcomes.

The journey we have been on started when a quango Morecambe Bay Partnership advertised for groups interested in managing marsh and mudflats around the Bay. After an informal alliance between all the Wildfowling clubs effected we sought to tackle the threats to us. The main threat was a project called H2H, Headlands 2 Head space.  The project aimed to develop the Bay area with increased visitor access, development of tourist honey pots and a good deal of conservation work. The problem was that the usual suspects and the H2H group had not factored in the Wildfowlers.

Clashes between the aims of the H2H project and wildfowling needed to be addressed. Eventually after a number of meetings and discussions we can say that our profile in the Bay area is improved and the relationships with NE, the RSPB etc has improved to the point that we have had a few collective activities. We now have a Wildfowl Liaison Meeting twice a year to discuss issues that have come out of the H2H project. This meeting also has been used as a vehicle to address other issues around the Bay.

During the same period we tackled the proposed Reference Areas around Walney Island. This turned out to galvanise local support from boating clubs, fishermen and politicians.

As Wildfowlers we are an independent lot but in today’s world we increasingly have to work with others and quiet often it proves to have benefits for us all.


Ely & District Wildfowler’s Association Land Management Process

Derek Robinson, Secretary Ely Wildfowlers  

Founded in 1956 Ely & District Wildfowler’s formed when interested parties began buying up land on the Ouse Washes, which once had been a free for all shoot area to local gunners.

It took a further 12 years before the club was able to purchase its first piece of land. Over twenty years later the club was offered another parcel of land but the committee were against the purchase. It took Brigadier Bill Deller OBE, the chairman of the time, an extraordinary meeting, funding from Natural England and doubling the membership and its fees to achieve this goal.

Still with a £10,000 grant offered from NE, committee were reluctant to spend the money necessary! At this point Tony Laws (WHT) stepped in, deciding the club would not lose the £10,000 grant offered by NE and, apart from providing a loan to EDWA, WHT went in with us to fund the purchase, with EDWA paying rent to WHT on an annual basis.

EDWA adopted WHT as part of their membership package and continue to raise money for this worthy charity and have been able to secure loans through the charity for further purchases. The last one, the President’s wash with an unconditional loan of £135,000

Once we rented most of our land and owned one wash. We now own most of our land and rent only a handful of properties.



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