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Game: Birds

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 10th March 2020.

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Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the effect of the release of non-native gamebirds on wildlife and native birds in Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, how many non-native gamebirds were released in the UK in the most recent 12 month period for which figures are available.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what (a) guidance and (b) regulations his Department has issued to ensure that there is no detrimental effect caused by the release of non-native gamebirds on local ecology and biodiversity.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) notification provides a key mechanism for the management of terrestrial European sites, which include Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). This includes a consenting process for operations listed as requiring Natural England’s consent. General guidance on the consenting process is published on the GOV.UK website:

www.gov.uk/guidance/protected-areas-sites-of-special-scientific-interest

Additionally the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 include provisions to manage operations that may damage European sites.

In response to a pre-action protocol letter from Wild Justice in July 2019, last September the Government accepted that in principle the annual release of non-native gamebirds on, or affecting, SACs and SPAs is capable of constituting a “plan or project” requiring appropriate assessment within the meaning of the Habitats Directive.

Whether they will do so in any given case will depend on whether they may have a significant effect on the specific SPA or SAC in question. This will depend in turn on the nature of the activities, the features and condition of the SPA or SAC, the distance from the SPA or SAC where the activities are carried out and the possible effects of the activities. While not accepting the argument that current laws do not provide for appropriate assessment in such cases, Defra committed to undertake a review to consider the legislative arrangements around the relevant activities and whether there are ways in which their effectiveness could be improved, as announced on 11 September 2019 (www.gov.uk/government/news/defra-responds-to-wild-justice-challenge-releasing-gamebirds-on-protected-sites).

The review is looking at the following areas:

  • Consenting process: in conjunction with Natural England, Defra is reviewing the effectiveness of the process around Operations Requiring Natural England’s Consent on European sites in relation to gamebird release.
  • Special Nature Conservation Orders (SNCOs) under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017: exploring the effective use of SNCOs in relation to gamebird release, which have to date been used as a last resort option designed to limit potentially damaging operations on or near European sites.
  • Legislative options: reviewing the current legislative arrangements that are of relevance to the release of non-native gamebirds on or around European sites, including considering whether any amendments to current regimes could provide further safeguards to European sites. Defra is also exploring other possible options for regulating such releases if current arrangements do not provide a solution.
  • Number of gamebirds released and their impact on European sites: examining available data to establish an estimate of the number of gamebirds that are released on or around European sites in England. In terms of their impact on European sites, considering available evidence including the findings from a literature review jointly commissioned by Natural England and the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, expected to conclude in March 2020.

Does this answer the above question?

Yes2 people think so

No3 people think not

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