Sign this Important petition on licensing grouse moors

Sign this Important petition on licensing grouse moors

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Added by July 22, 2016

The Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG), a network of  over 300 raptor experts who monitor and record the fortunes of raptor species across Scotland, is calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to implement urgent action to introduce a state regulated system of licensing of gamebird hunting. In a nut shell the SRSG wants new legislation to addresses the potentially adverse environmental impact of gamebird hunting, provides for the revocation or amendment of licences where a licence-holder fails to comply with their terms and conditions, and to implement the recommendations of the Review of Wildlife Crime Penalties in Scotland.

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Petition background information:

Self-regulation by the game bird shooting sector in Scotland has patently failed. There is no evidence of any decline in the criminal targeting of protected raptors on “driven” grouse moors and large scale commercial pheasant shoots in particular, whilst there is increasing evidence emerging of the detrimental environmental impacts arising from some of the management practices occurring in such areas (SNH SAC, 2015). We maintain that a step change in the state licensing or regulation of gamebird hunting in Scotland is now required to deliver the public interest in the way land for gamebird hunting is managed and to protect vulnerable species, including the Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Goshawk and Red Kite. Such regulation applies in other areas of natural resource management in Scotland; for example, in relation to the management of wild salmonid and deer populations (Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2013 and Deer (Scotland) Act 1996).

The issue of wildlife crime involving our native and iconic birds of prey  has attracted widespread public attention and condemnation from successive Scottish Government Ministers concerned about our international conservation commitments; the impacts on rural diversification and tourism; as well the country’s international reputation as a place that should be respecting its important natural heritage. Scotland’s soon-to-be first First Minister, Donald Dewar MSP rightly called the killing of birds of prey “a national disgrace” in 1998. Successive Environment Ministers in Scotland have condemned the illegal killing of birds of prey and called for firm action to tackle this persistent problem. Stronger measures are now clearly required to stop these crimes from happening.

The long-established Partnership Against Wildlife Crime has worked hard over many years to raise awareness of wildlife crime amongst the public and land management sector; however, despite this good work, serious crimes still occur with some frequency and across a wide geographical area (RSPB Scotland, 2015).  In the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary Natural Justice Report (2008), a series of recommendations were made for improvements to the enforcement of wildlife legislation and the prosecution of offenders. Some improvements to the system have been delivered following the publication of this report, however much remains to be done.

Good wildlife laws are now in place in Scotland to protect birds of prey (Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as amended), however there are parts of this country where these laws are still routinely flouted and it has become an entrenched part of the “business model” of certain sporting estates to kill birds of prey. A number of these same estates are now intensifying their land management practices, notably to promote “driven” grouse shooting with higher grouse bags for sporting clients (SNH SAC Review of Sustainable Moorland Management, 2015. The Intensification of Grouse Moor Management in Scotland. Wightman A., Tingay, R. League Against Cruel Sports, 2015).

Whilst wildlife crime has been identified by successive Environment Ministers as a high priority issue, enforcement of wildlife protection laws has historically been inadequately resourced by the police and is compounded by the fact that many of these crimes take place in remote areas where they are easily concealed by the perpetrators. It is therefore hard to gather sufficient evidence to bring cases to court, and when prosecutions are successful, imposed penalties (mainly fines) have largely failed to act as a sufficient deterrent to others. A recent Scottish Government review of wildlife crime penalties (Poustie, 2015) has recommended increased tariffs for a number of offences and we hope that this advice will be implemented as soon as possible.

The SNH SAC took evidence from various stakeholders in connection with its Review of Sustainable Moorland Management in 2015. This review has partly been a response to public concerns raised about a number of intensive moorland management practices that are now custom and practice, particularly on land managed for “driven” grouse shooting. These concerns are also documented in the scientific literature (e.g. The Environmental Impacts of high output driven shooting of red grouse Lagopus lagopus scoticus. Thompson et al., Ibis, 2016).  Highlighted negative practices include: illegal predator control; burning on deep peatland areas (Douglas, 2015); the culling of mountain hares to prevent grouse diseases; the widespread use of lead ammunition,(an environmental pollutant), and the medication of ‘wild’ red grouse. There have also been similar, however less well documented concerns, about the impacts of large scale non-native pheasant and red-legged partridge releases (estimated at 50 million birds per annum in the UK), with unknown consequences for the wider environment. These impacts may include damage to sensitive habitats and species, as well providing a large food source, thereby increasing predator numbers and survival to un-natural levels. These additional predation impacts could adversely affect the populations of native species.

SNH are currently conducting a review of gamebird licensing systems in Europe following a commitment by the Scottish Government in the annual wildlife crime debate in the Scottish Parliament. Previous work on this subject (Mustin et al., 2012) has shown that Scotland and the rest of the UK have some of the most intensive gamebird management systems which are very lightly regulated when compared to other EU and North American countries. In other similar European Union countries, such as Germany and Spain, there are powers for the relevant authorities to remove hunting licences and firearm certificates, amongst other punitive sanctions, where wildlife crimes are committed. Habitat Management Plans and game bag returns are also required in order to inform conservation action for the populations of huntable species.

This petition builds on the present review by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) of gamebird hunting licensing systems in other parts of the EU (expected to report in mid-Summer 2016) and the SNH Review of Sustainable Moorland Management (October 2015).


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