NPWS approached to review Pheasant shooting season due to Covid-19 05/11/20

The sports coalition have contacted the National Parks and Wildlife Service on behalf of country sportspeople regarding the pheasant shooting season, and its curtailment due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Dear Sir.

I am writing to you in relation to the impact of the restrictions contained in Level 5 of the Plan for Living with Covid-19 on recreational shooting in Ireland and on our environment.

At the outset let me state quite clearly that we recognise and understand that the representative bodies involved with recreational shooting and their members must comply with the law including regulations contained in Level 5 of the Plan for Living with Covid-19. However, the shooting community also works closely with farmers and other landowners to sustainably manage populations of wild animals in order to keep damage to crops, pasture, woodland and biodiversity to acceptable levels. It is with these mutual responsibilities in mind that I am writing to you today.

Recreational shooters play a vital role in managing the Irish countryside. They are the main controllers of pest, predator and wild game species in the countryside and are very often the eyes and ears of the landowners in many situations. The many clubs, associations, game federations and organised game shooting syndicates spend months and quite literally millions of euros in preparation for every season and this current lockdown is threatening the very existence of these long standing customs and rural traditions.

Government have settled on an interpretation of Level 5 of the Plan for Living with Covid-19 regulations which effectively prohibits the shooting of pheasants under any circumstances until at least 2nd December 2020. There is also a possibility that further restrictions might apply before the end of the season which is 31st January. Therefore, at a minimum at least one third of the season will be lost and this is likely to leave the countryside with an environmental imbalance in terms of the population of adult pheasants. The number of pheasants released would, in any other year be perfectly sustainable but the unforeseen circumstances caused by Covid-19 and government response to it means that this situation will need to be addressed.

Under Section 22(9)(b) of the Wildlife Act 1976 the Minister is empowered to grant licences “to hunt, in accordance with the licence, on such day or during such period of days as is specified in the licence, protected wild birds which are both pen reared of a species so specified”. These powers are already widely used with many shooting estates being licenced to shoot pheasants during the month of February annually.

It is our expert opinion that this season (2020/2021) all those clubs and organised game shoots who release pheasants will require consent to shoot under licence until the end of February 2021 for environmental balancing purposes. It is with this in mind that we are asking you to indicate that you will favourably consider licencing the hunting of pen reared pheasants until the end of February 2021, under the provisions of Section 22(9)(b) of the Wildlife Act 1976. This extension already has a standing in law and would be a cost effective and direct approach to resolve the situation.

We shall post updates as soon as we receive them from NPWS

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