A major conference attracting conservationists from countries throughout the Greenland whitefront goose’s range was held last week on Islay, in the Inner Hebrides. Its aim was to discuss action to reverse the population decline of the threatened birds.

The conference controversially accepted that protection from hunting in the UK and Ireland, which was put in place in the 1980s, was a factor in the population increasing from 14,300 in the late 1970s to 35,600 in 1999, but numbers nevertheless declined since then to 23,000 in spring 2008. This decline comes despite the RSPB’s purchase of major reserves in the

Greenland whitefront goose’s range, including the 1,600ha reserve at Loch

Gruinart on Islay, at which four per cent of the goose population overwinters.

Led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), in partnership with the Greenland

Whitefront Goose Study (GWGS), last week’s conference produced long-term

commitments from the agencies and conservation bodies involved. SNH

director of policy Professor Colin Galbraith commented: “The past few days of

discussions have confi rmed the serious plight of the global population of Greenland whitefront geese. The conference has highlighted the key importance of managing the wintering grounds for the species in Scotland. They also considered the significance of changes happening in the nesting areas in Greenland due to climate and competition with other species.”

He added that: “The good news is that we have been able to combine all this knowledge to produce a draft framework agreement and a way forward. This international collaboration promises targeted and enhanced conservation work in each country designed to mitigate the threats we have identifi ed here. I am optimistic that we can now develop work between the countries involved to support the species through these current pressures.”

The rest of this article appears in 5 March issue of Shooting Times.

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