For too long any disturbance to wintering waterfowl caused by wildfowling has been viewed as having a greater potential to affect waterfowl populations adversely than the relatively low level harvesting of their populations. As such the consents granted to allow wildfowling on designated sites often include conditions to limit the number of wildfowler visits in each season, based on the perception that this is most likely to minimise any harmful disturbance caused by wildfowling activity. However, the science of waterfowl disturbance is relatively poorly understood. As such the conditions can lead to inappropriate and unscientific restrictions on wildfowling.
BASC is working to change that by funding independent research and working with bodies such the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement, Natural England and the Crown Estate.
BASC sponsored Catherine Collop, a PhD student at Bournemouth University, to conduct a study on Poole harbour. The study found that walking causes 100 times more disturbance than wildfowling. Furthermore, that wildfowling accounted for just 0.04% of the disturbance activities on Poole Harbour and that the impact was deemed so low that research predicted that there would be no impact on the survival of birds even if it was increased by 25 times. Catherine’s full PhD can be found here:
Catherine’s research shows just how low an impact wildfowling can have, and also, importantly provides some general information on assessing the likely impact of wildfowling. We are now building on this success and have sponsored a follow-up study looking at how the findings from Poole Harbour can be generalised to any site.