Consultation on Principles of Gamebird Management in the UK

Consultation ends 30th June 2020

Game management can be a significant force for good for nature conservation. It can help improve farmland, woodland, moorland and wetland. 50 years of GWCT research has demonstrated that, when best practice is followed, the net biodiversity gain that arises from shooting can be huge.

The importance of this net gain is enshrined in Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan. We have developed a set of principles to help land mangers achieve the most gain from shooting. The principles are closely aligned with the Bern Convention European Charter on Hunting and Biodiversity. This charter is based on international agreements on the Convention of Biological Diversity and are supported by the IUCN.

Principles of gamebird management in the UK

(1) Maximise nature’s gain: Habitats created and managed to support gamebirds include woodland, hedgerows, field margins, game cover crops, wild bird seed mixes, moorlands and wetlands. Alongside the habitat provided and managed for gamebirds, predation control and supplementary feeding are often important aspects of game management.

These activities can benefit a wide range of other wildlife. All shoots, whether based on wild gamebirds, released gamebirds or a combination of both, should strive to maximise the overall gain to wildlife.

(2) Minimising impact: Through the active management of the countryside, game management can support the growth of game populations, allowing a sustainable harvest with positive benefits for other species. This should avoid gamebird population levels that could damage other land uses such as farming, forestry and nature conservation.

(3) Gamebird releasing numbers: Gamebirds should only be released and managed at densities appropriate to the local circumstances, so that there is a net environmental gain from undertaking such activity. Before the first shoot day, all released birds should be fully adapted to life in the wild, and shoots should ensure all game that is fit for human consumption is eaten.

(4) Releasing habitat: Releasing gamebirds in the summer increases the number of birds available to shoot later in the year. Shoot managers should only release gamebirds in habitats that enable them to acclimatise quickly to life in the wild and support their year-round needs.

(5) Wild game numbers: Grouse and wild partridge shoots should assess their proposed bag by calculating the sustainable yield based on annual game counts, and follow GWCT recommendations for sustainable harvest of wild game.

(6) Habitat creation: Appropriate habitat creation and management is needed for all gamebirds. Maintaining this critical and appropriate diversity of habitats is essential. Shooting provides an incentive to privately fund the creation and management of habitats across large areas of the countryside specifically for wildlife – something that is usually only incidental to other forms of land use such as forestry or farming.

(7) Reducing predation pressure: Predation control is undertaken to reduce predation pressure at key times of year. This includes the spring, to reduce levels of predation on nesting birds, nests and chicks; and during late summer to protect released game. The predators targeted are common and successful generalists, so a temporary reduction in their numbers locally or regionally will not jeopardise their population or conservation status.

Predation control activities should be undertaken according to best practice guidelines to ensure they are legal, humane and effective. In no circumstances should any protected species be illegally killed to protect game, nor should any predation control activity negatively impact the conservation status of a species.

Consultation

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What is the Bern Convention?
A legally binding set of principles that aim to conserve wildlife and their habitats, as well as to promote international co-operation. Effective since 1982, it is the only treaty of its kind in the world. It also takes account of the impact that other policies may have on natural heritage and recognises the intrinsic value of wildlife, which needs to be preserved and passed to future generations.

The UK is one of 50 European and African countries to have signed it, and the EU is also a founder member. Signatories are committed to: promoting national conservation policies; considering the impact of planning and development on the natural environment; promoting education and information on conservation; and co-ordinating research.

What is the IUCN?
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.

What is the Bern Convention European Charter on Hunting and Biodiversity?
This charter is based on international agreements on the Convention on Biological Diversity that are supported by the IUCN. The agreements are the Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines for the Sustainable Use of Biodiversity, and the Ecosystem Approach to Conservation (Malawi Principles).

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