Here on Islay we witness each winter the presence of large numbers of geese from the Arctic. Predominantly these are Barnacle Geese, but lesser numbers of Greenland White-fronted Geese are present as well. There are acknowledged conflicts with the farming process, but the Scottish Government has acknowledged this situation and subsidy mechanisms are in place. Arguments sometimes reign over the extent of these and the Governments representative body, Scottish Natural Heritage, has been at the centre of such discussions and initiatives for many years. Clearly the challenge is one of balance in all respects, but currently the problem is made all the more difficult by seemingly increasing numbers of Barnacle Geese set against repeated reductions of Greenland White-fronted Geese!!
Many of you will know that the Greenland White-fronted Goose is actually a subspecies, but has been afforded protective status within a variety of legislation due to its distinctiveness. Breeding in Greenland, separated from the "main" population of White-fronted Geese distributed across Russia, it winters in Scotland and Ireland with a small population in Wales. Over the fourteen years I have been on Islay the numbers have reduced very noticeably and similar concerns are being expressed from elsewhere too. As yet it's not entirely clear precisely why the population is reducing, which makes the task of tackling the decline so much harder. Nonetheless, various efforts have and are still being made to try and improve this situation, including initiatives on Islay, of which more in due course. Studies have shown that the birds are extremely sensitive to hunting pressure and shooting of birds is banned virtually everywhere, except in Wales!!
Wales plays host each winter to a small population centred on the Dyfi estuary. Whilst there is a voluntary ban on shooting by local wildfowlers, in theory at least it is still feasible to shoot birds in Wales and, of course, any voluntary undertaking is not enshrined in law. Given the current concerns for the species and conservation efforts being implemented virtually everywhere else where the birds winter, it seems bizarre in the extreme that this situation should exist in Wales given it could be rectified so simply through Government process.
The Wales Ornithological Society has long drawn attention to this anomaly but now more direct action is being taken. A petition has been raised on the Welsh Assembly calling for the position to be regularised
Greenland White-fronted Goose petition
NOW ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS CLICK THE LINK ABOVE AND SIGN. THANK YOU.
If I simply say that Wales is the only place where this bird is not protected within its range the scenario becomes even more of a nonsense. Whilst I'm sure the Welsh Assembly has not set out to isolate the birds in question, the current situation does question why, in a devolved structure, there is not some element of "joined up thinking". But let's not go there and, instead, concentrate on putting right what is a simple element that requires action, little effort and at the very least demonstrates everyone is on side when it comes to protecting these magnificent birds. My only personal apology ( on what is concerning a particular favourite of mine ) is that I can't for the life of me find a suitable photograph to accompany this!! A call for an update to my file system I suspect.