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Defra modifies GL45 as bird flu risk downgraded

General Licence 45 is extended to cover more SPAs as the risk of avian influenza recedes — in good time for the upcoming shooting season.

A month after the risk from highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was downgraded in wild birds (News, 17 April), the Government has extended the reach of one of its licences to release gamebirds. This means that in certain areas where gamebird release was illegal, it will now be allowed subject to certain rules, and where release was subject to specific caveats, these have been removed.

Defra has issued a modified General Licence 45 (GL45 (modified)) for the release of common pheasants and red-legged partridges on specified Special Protection Areas (SPAs) or within their 500m buffer zones in England. 

The AI risk for birds in captivity was reduced to low on 31 March and on 8 April the risk in wild birds was also reduced to low. GL45 (modified) replaces GL45 to reflect this reduction of risk level in wild birds, and the modified GL45 is now valid in England until 1 February 2025.

When GL45 was originally published, it applied to the release of both common pheasant and red-legged partridge on 29 of the 31 SPAs that were covered by an individual licence last year, as well as for The Wash SPA for the release of red-legged partridges. 

GL45 (modified) now covers releases on 85 SPAs and their 500m buffer zones, and the specific conditions that had applied to the Peak District Moors SPA and The Wash SPA have now been removed.

A specific condition for Northumberland Marines SPA has been added, which prevents the keeping and releasing of pheasants and red-legged partridges on the SPA or its 500m buffer zone before 7 September 2024. There is no requirement for shoots to apply or register to use the modified GL45, but its conditions must be met. Several changes have been made to these, including the requirement to report release activity, using a new linked online reporting form. 

Glynn Evans, BASC’s head of game and wildlife management, told Shooting Times he welcomed the update to GL45: “We have been pushing for a workable licence following the decision at exceptionally short notice to remove SPAs from GL43. Alongside legal action, we have been working with Defra and we are pleased that this updated licence has been issued.”