National Goose Management Review Group minutes: January 2019

Minutes from the meeting of the National Goose Management Review Group on 22 January 2019.

Attendees and apologies

  • Hugh Dignon (Chair, SG)
  • Morag Milne, SNH
  • Colin Shedden, BASC
  • Andrew Midgely, NFUS
  • Claudia Rowse, SNH
  • Rae McKenzie, SNH
  • Bill Dundas, RPID
  • Patrick Krause, SCF
  • Karen Ramoo, SLE
  • Andy Douse, SNH (GSAG Chair in Gill’s absence)


  • Keith Connal (SG)
  • Gill Hartley, SASA
  • Martin Kennedy, NFUS

Items and actions

Minutes (5 October 2018, paper 1) and matters arising

The minutes from 5 October 2018 were approved and the outstanding action points are listed in Paper 1. All except two are now discharged; Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is now in receipt of proposals for managing resident greylag geese (RGL) and Morag will circulate these proposals. Morag will thank Local Goose Management Groups (LGMGs) on behalf of the National Goose Management Review Group (NGMRG) for their annual reports about the 2017/18 goose schemes. We anticipate the publication of the 2016 national goose policy review on the Scottish Government’s (SG) web pages shortly.

Action point (AP): There were no other matters arising.

The Structure of the NGMRG – paper 2 – Morag Milne

The NGMRG was asked to comment on the structure proposed for the NGMRG, number of meetings required per annum, and the number of representatives that should attend each meeting.

There was consensus around changing the Group’s name to the ‘National Goose Forum’ (to reflect a slightly different role and wider membership), retention of three meetings per annum, with membership from the current national groups, local goose management groups (LGMGs), and to extend invitations to Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). 

The Group recommended each LGMG send one representative.

Where meetings focus on specialist topics, the Forum may invite representatives from other fields to attend e.g. air safety or tourism groups. Minutes could be shared with such groups if they express an interest in the Forum.

It’s envisaged that the Forum will focus on key principles and will provide general advice to the Scottish Government (SG). SG and SNH will be responsible for decisions about the operational aspects of goose scheme/project delivery. 

Meetings will, wherever possible, use Rural Payments and Inspections Division (RPID) and SG video conference facilities to avoid unnecessary travel. RPID can arrange a ‘bridge’ to the Islay office. Members will be responsible for paying for their own personal travel and subsistence costs if they elect to attend meetings in person.

AP: Morag to update the Terms of Reference (ToR) for the Forum to take these points into account.

Islay Strategy – verbal update – Rae McKenzie

There was a big drop in the number of Greenland barnacle geese returning to Islay, with numbers down to around 31,000 birds in the November and December counts (paper 7). However, the January count was up, at about 35,000 birds, suggesting a late migration to Scotland. In response to the low Nov/Dec counts, SNH restricted bag limits (in line with the population model). Although barnacle numbers are still within the anticipated 10-year trajectory (for reaching a population target of about 30,000 birds), we may be ahead of schedule. 

There have not been any complaints from farmers; with the mild weather there’s been a lot of grass and relatively few geese.

There have been various communication activities in relation to the Islay Strategy including online articles and publication of a video showing their marksmen at work on Islay. The video has been reviewed by an external reviewer, and SNH is satisfied that the marksmen were, and continue to undertake their duties following best practice.

The Islay Local Goose Management Group is planning to meet with the authors of an article about the Islay Strategy in The article is critical of the Strategy and SNH is keen to arrange a joint meeting with both its authors and with Islay farmers to better understand the authors’ concerns. 

In December a journalist from the Scotsman spent time with the marksmen and with goose counters. Her article in the Scotland on Sunday provided a balanced account of goose management on Islay.

SNH will undertake a mid-term review the Strategy’s progress in the autumn.

Several questions followed this update and the responses are outlined below:

How confident are we that the reduction in barnacle goose numbers is a result of shooting? We are working with a population model, it is adaptive process and other factors do come into play, including productivity and weather events.

How far through the bag limit are the marksmen? The marksmen have shot about 500 geese so far and they may not be able to shoot the full 1,000 this spring; there’s lots of grass, fewer birds and the birds are in large flocks which are not always in the fields that can be shot on so they are harder to target. 

Will the Islay Goose Scheme cost less this year if there are fewer geese? No, the counts this year will not affect the farm average until next year. Impacts on costs will not be as immediate as you might think. Payments are affected by the number of geese a farm supports, but these are 7-year averages so the payment rates are relatively consistent and do not fluctuate greatly from year to year.

Goose schemes – paper 3 – Claudia Rowse

Paper 3 describes a new Greenland barnacle goose scheme for Uist and Tiree. This proposal has SNH approval, and SNH anticipates its launch in February 2019 subject to it meeting Natura tests. 

The Scheme is time-limited, offering crofters support for the provision of undisturbed feeding areas for barnacle geese and it anticipates increased bag limits for lethal scaring on other areas.

The National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS) welcomed the proposals.

Goose schemes – Strathbeg Goose Scheme – mid-term review – paper 4 – Morag Milne

Paper 4 summarises the findings from the mid-term review. The LGMG have recommended continuation of the Strathbeg Scheme. 

AP: All to comment on the Strathbeg review

AP: SNH will consider the recommendations in light of an appropriate assessment to satisfy Natura tests. 

Goose schemes – annual reports/c– verbal update – Morag Milne

No-one has submitted any comments on the 2017/18 Annual Reports.

AP: Morag will write to LGMGs to thank them for their 2017/18 Annual Reports.

2016/17 retrospective compatibilities checks were undertaken last year. About a dozen incompatible payments were identified. In recognition of this administrative error SNH plans to write off the overpayment using de minimus State Aid rules, or to ask RPID to decommit overpayments where they exceed de minimus thresholds. Once RPID has agreed to this process, SNH will write to participants of the three affected Schemes to advise them whether they have an overpayment, and to advise them that SNH will not be recovering any monies if they do.

The meeting noted that increasing numbers of barnacle geese from the Svalbard population on the Solway are causing damage on land outwith the goose Scheme. The LGMG would like to extend the Scheme to include this additional area (as presented to NGMRG when the current Scheme was developed). 

AP: SNH will consider the Solway LGMG’s request to extend its Scheme area and report to the next meeting.

Adaptive management pilots – next steps – paper 5 – Morag Milne

Paper 5 outlines LGMGs’ proposals for managing resident greylag goose (RGL) once the transitional period for the Adaptive Management Pilots comes to an end in March 2019. 

LGMGs were asked to identify how they propose to manage RGL geese on a self-help and self-financing basis. Instead, all bar Tiree LGMG are seeking continued funding from SNH. Both the Uist and Lewis and Harris LGMGs are looking for funding to continue with RGL population control along the lines of the adaptive management Pilot model. The Orkney LGMG has identified potential sources of alternate funding (from shooting and from sale of goose meat) and the scale of income they could generate. Together they might generate enough to sustain a maintenance cull but additional (SNH) funding would be required to deliver any reduction cull. Tiree LGMG anticipate the Argyll Estate will continue to undertake a maintenance cull to reduce goose damage.

It was suggested LGMGs don’t agree self-help is the way forward and that they are not ready for self-help.

Discussion focussed on the barriers to implementing self-help. We considered the actions that government and its agencies might take to address barriers to self-help to enable farmers and crofters to control RGL populations and protect their crops. The meeting agreed the barriers listed in Paper 5 are the key issues to address. 

Access to shooting rights is considered a key issue in crofting areas, particularly on Uist. However, Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) and British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) have serious reservations about exploring the potential to change legislation to enable occupiers to shoot geese to protect their crops. It was felt this could lead to conflict between occupiers and owners where occupiers might wish to protect their crops during the sport shooting season e.g. for snipe.

SNH and RPID were asked if they could help more to co-ordinate goose shooting for LGMGs. RPID replied they didn’t have the ‘tools’ (resources?).

Some LGMGs wish to reduce the RGL goose population further and SNH has agreed lower population ranges will still maintain the conservation interest of RGL populations in Uist and Lewis and Harris.

AP: Morag to circulate the LGMG’s proposals.

AP: Morag to draft a next-steps paper building on the proposals to review General Licence conditions, offer support to help establish businesses based on selling goose meat or co-ordinating shooting for an adaptive management bag, and extending sale of goose meat. 

Goose Scientific Advisory Group (GSAG) Structure of NGMRG - paper 6A GSAG report and 6B GSAG ToR for its science strategy – Andy Douse

Papers 6A and 6B outline the content of GSAG’s recent meetings and the terms of reference (ToR) for its science strategy. A first draft of the Science Strategy will be presented for comment to the first national goose forum (NGF) meeting. GSAG membership will be reviewed once the Science strategy has been approved.

AP: GSAG will develop the science strategy to underpin the delivery of the Scottish Government’s national goose policy; identifying and prioritising the scientific work required to support each of the key proposals in the national policy review and identifying how this work could be delivered.

The revised Greenland barnacle goose population model is currently undergoing quality assurance.

African Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) update – verbal update - Rae McKenzie

The single species management plan for Greenland barnacle geese was adopted (with very minor alteration) at AEWA’s Meeting of the Parties in early December in South Africa

How we translate this into action in Scotland is ‘a work in progress’. The next AEWA international working group meeting will be hosted by SNH (on behalf of the SG) at Battleby from 17 to 20 June 2019. 

Any other competent business 

Date of next meeting: Morag to circulate dates for the first NGF meeting in July/August.

SNH apologised for the lateness of the papers presented for today’s meeting.

Morag Milne 25 January 2019

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