Goose management policy in Scotland: 2010 review

Review of goose management policy in Scotland conducted in 2010.

11 Appendix B: Over-arching conservation legislation and international agreements

Ramsar Convention

The Ramsar Convention (see provides the framework for national actions and international co-operation for the conservation and best use of wetlands and came into force in 1975. Signatory parties are obliged to carry out a number of actions. Firstly they are obliged to use wetlands wisely when considering land use, supporting legislation ad management actions. They also have to designate at least one wetland for inclusion for the List of Wetlands of International Importance, for which it is critical that waterbird abundance data at both the site and population level is collated. In addition they are committed to co-operating at an international level over shared wetlands and species. The UK has a total of 146 RAMSAR sites of which 50 are in Scotland and one is shared with England.

Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention)

The Bern Convention (see came into force in 1982. The main objectives are to conserve and protect wild plant and animal species and their natural habitats. The Convention was also designed to increase international cooperation between Member States and to regulate the exploitation of wild species. There are four appendices that are updated regularly, as follows: Appendix I lists all species of flora that are strictly protected; Appendix II lists all strictly protected fauna species; Appendix III lists all protected fauna species); and Appendix IV lists all prohibited means and methods of killing, capture and other forms of exploitation. The Bern Convention has been implemented in Europe by adopting both the Council Directive 79/409/ EEC on the Conservation of Wild Birds in 1979, known otherwise as the Birds Directive and 92/43/ EEC on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora, known more commonly as the Habitats Directive (below).

Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals(Bonn Convention)

The Bonn Convention (see came into force in 1985. One of the main aims of the convention is the facilitation of contracting parties to work collaboratively to conserve both migratory species and their habitats through strict protection measures. This includes the drawing up of Multilateral Agreements and undertaking joint research activities between member states. Under the Bonn Convention there are two Appendices under which species can be listed: Appendix I refers to species threatened with extinction; and Appendix II lists species that need or would benefit from international cooperation. There are a number of ratified agreements, which are the primary tools for implementation of the Bonn Convention: Within the UK, only the AEWA agreement is of relevance for geese.

African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement ( AEWA)

AEWA (see came into force in 1999 and is, to date, the largest to be developed under the Bonn Convention. Under the agreement Action Plan, 255 species of birds are covered that are dependent on wetland for at least part of their annual cycle and are particularly vulnerable due to their long distance migration behaviour. Signatory parties are required to carry out a wide range of conservation actions, which are outlined in the agreement Action Plan. These include the need for waterbird population and ecology data which, where necessary, should be achieved through cooperative international research and monitoring programmes. Moreover species, with certain listings, should have international single species action plans in order to improve their overall conservation status. In addition, high priority is attached to identifying all sites of international and national importance for key populations. It is also important for parties to establish protected areas for key species and to implement appropriate management plans.

Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity ( CBD, see came into power in 1992. It has three mean aims, namely: (1) the conservation of biological diversity; (2) the sustainable use of its components; and (3) the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources. One key output is the 2010 Biodiversity Target in which signatories agree to halt biodiversity loss by 2010. The Biodiversity Convention is implemented by the EU Habitats Directive (below) at the European level. At the UK level, the CBD is implemented through the UKBAP process (see Section 2.4).

European conservation legislation

Birds Directive 1979 (most recent Council Directive 2009/147/ EC)

The Birds Directive 53 provides the most important and comprehensive scheme for protection for all wild birds species that occur naturally within the EU and follows the Bern Convention. Broad objectives are set by the Birds Directive but the legal mechanisms put into place are at the discretion of each Member State. In mainland UK, the provisions of the Birds Directive are met through the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations1994.

The Birds Directive provides a framework for the management and conservation of wild birds through the implementation of special measures to conserve birds, their eggs, nests and habitats. It also recognises that wild birds tend to be migratory and as such constitute a shared heritage between member states of the EU. Hence international cooperation is often required for their protection.

One of the most important provisions of the Birds Directive is to maintain the populations of all wild bird species across their natural range (under Article 2) which should be encouraged by various activities (under Article 3). Moreover, species listed under Annex 1 are afforded special conservation measures concerning their habitat, which can be achieved through the designation of Special Protection Areas ( SPAs) in order to ensure their survival and reproduction in their area of distribution (Article 4). There are 147 SPAs in Scotland, one of which is shared with England.

In addition, the Directive states that provisions should be made for the establishment of a general scheme which protects all wild birds (under Article 5). This includes the prohibition of the deliberate killing or capture by any method, the destruction or damage to eggs and nest, and the deliberate disturbance of birds during breeding and rearing.

Hunting is recognised as a legitimate activity under the Directive and measures are required to ensure that hunting is sustainable. Species which may be hunted legally across the whole of the range where the Directive applies and those which can be hunted in specified Member States are listed in Annexes II/1 and II/2 respectively. The Directive prohibits large scale or non-selective means of capture or bird killing and hunting (under Article 8), in particular those listed in Annex IV (this includes the use of semiautomatic or automatic weapons). Also imposed are restrictions on the sale of live or dead birds (including any recognisable parts or derivatives). Exceptions to this are birds listed in Annex III/1 and III.2, assuming birds have been acquired or killed legally.

The Directive outlines a set of conditions under which permission can be granted for otherwise prohibited activities, which are referred to as derogations (under Article 9).


Special Protection Areas ( SPAs) are areas that provide special protection for the rare or vulnerable species listed in Annex 1 of the Birds Directive for regularly occurring migratory species and the protection of wetlands of international importance. In designating SPAs, there are two stages, the first of which involves identifying sites that are likely to qualify under the basis of supporting one of the following:

(1) 1% or more of the UK population of an Annex 1 species;

(2) 1% of the biogeographical population of a regularly occurring migratory species; or

(3) over 20,000 waterfowl or seabirds in any season.

Under the second stage, the selection of the most suitable sites (number and location) is based on consideration of a range of factors, including population size and density, species range, breeding success, history of occupancy, multispecies range, naturalness and severe weather refuges. In certain circumstances it is possible to designate an SPA based solely on judgments of stage 2. In estimating 1% values for goose species, data on the biogeographical and GB populations were taken from Rose and Scott (1997), which referenced national censuses from the years1990-1995 respectively.

It has been UK government policy to date to underpin SPAs with the designation of SSSIs (the latter aims to protect natural and natural habitats and species through a site-based mechanism). This has meant that cropped habitats, which are utilised for the harvesting of seeds, shoots, leaves or other plant parts by planting of crops and the use of fertiliser, has not been included as part of the SPA designation process . This includes semi-improved and reseeded grasslands which are of high importance to geese as a foraging habitat. Therefore to date, with the exception of Islay, SPAs for geese have been designated for roosts sites only and not for feeding areas. DEFRA has now recognised that although cropped habitat often has limited conservation value for plants, it may have high value for birds. It also acknowledged that the Birds Directive does not preclude the designation of SPAs in what are considered artificial habitats. JNCC has carried out for the first time a comprehensive assessment of the use of cropped habitats by birds and identified a proforma for gathering information in the future (Baker and Stroud 2010, Baker et al. 2010 a, b). Work, led by the BTO, is now currently underway to provide information that will aid a targeted review of the SPA and RAMSAR networks in terrestrial and coastal areas of the UK. As part of this, up to date site-level population counts and information to support the assessment of species SPA provision will be carried out for a range of species. In terms of geese, however, this will only cover the Greenland White-fronted Goose (although there has also been a major shift in distribution of Icelandic Greylag geese, which may be an important omission from the review). Moreover a number of bird species will be covered in relation to the development of a decision-making tool about the inclusion of cropped habitats into the SPA network. This will include the following species of geese: Bean, Pink-footed, European White-fronted, Greenland White-fronted, Icelandic Greylag, Greenland Barnacle, Dark-bellied Brent, and East Atlantic Light-bellied Brent Goose.

Habitats Directive 1992 (Council Directive 92/43/ EC)

The Habitats Directive's principle aim is to conserve the natural habitats and wild fauna and flora within the European Community in order to protect overall biodiversity 54. The provisions of the Directive also require that Member States implement measures including the protection of 189 habitats listed in Annex I and 788 species listed in Annex II. This is carried out by the designation by Member States of Special Areas of Conservation ( SACs), which in effect offer increased levels of protection for habitats and wild fauna and flora. No Scottish species of geese are listed in Annex II however.

Collectively SACs and SPAs, designated under the Birds Directive (above), form a network of protected areas called Natura 2000. There is an EU requirement that surveillance of habitats and species is carried out on six-year cycle.

National conservation legislation

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (and as amended)

This Act (see provides general protection for all wild birds by specifically prohibiting the killing, injuring, taking (from the natural environment) or selling of wild birds or their nests and eggs. The exception to this general rule is permissible through listing of bird species on certain Schedules (See Table B1) of the Act, which can either provide extra protection measures or allow activities which would otherwise be considered illegal.

Table B1 Schedules under the W&C Act 1981 and relevance to goose Populations



Schedule 1 Part 1

Birds which are protected by special penalties at all times

Schedule 1 part 2

Birds which are protected by special penalties during the closed season 55

Schedule 2 part 1

Birds that can be killed or taken outwith the closed season ('quarry' species).

Schedule 2 part 2

Birds that can be killed or taken by authorised person (e.g. the landowner) at all times (under a general licence). This for a restricted number of purposes only (e.g. to protect crop damage, wild birds, air safety or public health).

Schedule 3 part 1

Species which may be sold alive at all times if ringed and bred in captivity.

Schedule 3 part 2

Species which may be sold dead at all times

Schedule 3 part 3

Species which may be sold dead from1 September to 28 February.

Schedule 4

Species for which there are restrictions on being kept in captivity unless they are registered and ringed.

Schedule 9

Species which, under Section 14 of the act, are prohibited from being released into the wild.

The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (and as amended)

The EU Habitats Directive is transposed into UK law through the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (excluding Ireland) which is sometimes referred to as the Habitat Regulations or the Habitat Directive. The regulations provide for the designation of sites which have importance for either Habitats or Species (as listed in Annexes I or II of the EU Habitats Directive). These are submitted to the European Commission who, assuming there is sufficient evidence to prove their value, will designate them as Sites of Community Importance ( SCIs). The government has an obligation to designate these sites as SACs within six years.

The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2009

The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2009 supersedes the SSSI provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This is achieved through making a number of provisions including the enhanced protection and management of SSSIs. Furthermore, it places a duty on public bodies to further the conservation and enhancement of SSSIs and higher levels of penalties can be imposed following conviction when the provisions have been breached. The Nature Conservation Act also makes amendments to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 by strengthening the legal protection for threatened species. This is carried out through the inclusion of 'recklessly' in addition to intentional damage caused. For Schedule 1A species protection is extended to all times of the year (which at this stage only includes White-tailed Eagle). Also of relevance, powers are provided to Scottish Ministers to prohibit the sale of certain non-native species. The publication of the Scottish Biodiversity List satisfies the requirements of Part 1, Section 2(4) of The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004.

Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill Consultation

The Scottish Government published in June 2009 a consultation document that outlined proposals to reform key areas of the wildlife and natural environment legislative framework. Two main areas to be reviewed were the Deer Act and the suite of statutes dealing with Game Law and how the legislative framework could be updated. The Scottish Government is currently considering all views submitted during the consultation exercise (the most recent part of which closed on 1 September 2010) before finalising the Bill. It is likely that the Bill will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament in 2010.


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