Stormont voted last week to drop curlew from the quarry list in Northern Ireland. The new legislation is to be part of the Northern Ireland Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill, which is now due to become law. The decision came despite the vast majority of wildfowlers in the Province having observed a self imposed moratorium on shooting curlew. In recent times numbers shot each year amounted to only 12 or so. Numbers of curlew have been falling steadily but this has been blamed on the rise in predators and erosion of habitat. Terry Young of Lough Foyle Wildfowlers commented: “Everyone involved with wildlife, whether as a conservationist or as a sportsman, is fully aware that shooting pressure is not responsible for the decline in the local breeding population of curlew. Habitat destruction, combined with predation by corvids and foxes, is the real reason for the decline in numbers.”

Though disappointed by the exclusion of curlew from the quarry list, shooting groups welcomed the decision to drop a controversial last minute amendment to give the Department of Environment power to prohibit or restrict shooting in Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) and on land adjoining or surrounding them. Had such restrictions gone through they would have had a profound impact on shooting sports in Northern Ireland. Amendment 23 tabled by Mr Jim Wells and Mr Peter Weir called for the law to: (f) prohibit or restrict the killing, taking, molesting or disturbance of living creatures of any description in the ASSI, the taking, destruction or disturbance of eggs, larvae or other immature stage, of any such creature, the taking of, or interference with, vegetation of any description in the ASSI, or the doing of anything therein which will interfere with the soil or damage any object in the ASSI; (g) prohibit or restrict the shooting of birds or of birds of any description within such area surrounding or adjoining the ASSI (whether the area be of land or of sea) as is requisite for the protection of the ASSI.

The rest of this article appears in 30th June issue of Shooting Times.

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