This is the sixth Scottish Government annual report on wildlife crime. Building on the data provided by previous reports, its continued aim is to provide information to the public, stakeholders and the Scottish Parliament on wildlife crime in Scotland, highlighting not only trends and numbers of offences but also where there may be gaps in the availability of data. This report covers the calendar year 2017, using data for the 2016-17 financial year.
For the second year running, I am pleased to see a reduction in the overall number of wildlife offences - down 11% from 2015-16 to 231 and the lowest in five years.
Last year the number of hunting with dogs offences was at an all-time high, at 44 offences. While a 50% reduction in this reporting period is welcome, I hope to see this downward trend continue.
I am also glad to note that of those proceeded against in the Scottish courts for wildlife related offences, 96% were convicted - the highest it’s been in the five years since 2012-13.
Again, the highest volume wildlife crime was fish poaching however, this has also reduced for the second year - down from 75 offences in 2015-16 to 68 in 2016-17. This underlines the essential work done through the partnership of Police Scotland, Fisheries Management Scotland and District Salmon Fisheries Boards.
The number of poisoning incidents has decreased by a third this year, with only three incidents involving birds of prey. Raptor persecution offences fell by 56% in this period from 25 in 2015-16 to 11 in 2016-17.
I welcome the reduction in offences but it is disappointing that wildlife crime and raptor persecution continue to threaten Scotland’s natural heritage and damage the reputation of our country. In recognition that further measures were necessary to tackle this problem, in May 2017 I announced increased resources for Police Scotland for the detection and investigation of wildlife crime and a pilot scheme to use special constables in the Cairngorms National Park.
I am aware that there were a number of incidents where tagged birds of prey disappeared during the course of the year (six golden eagles, three hen harriers). These incidents are not recorded as crimes by Police Scotland. However the number of these incidents in recent years, and the circumstances where neither the missing bird nor satellite tag are recovered combined with what we know about the reliability of these tags when used in other countries, strongly suggests that many of these incidents are likely to be the result of illegal killing of these birds.
As a consequence of the evidence found in the “Analyses of the fates of satellite tracked golden eagles in Scotland”, the Grouse Moor Management Group was established in November 2017. Its remit is to examine the environmental impact of grouse moor management practices such as muirburn, the use of medicated grit and mountain hare culls and advise on the option of licensing grouse shooting businesses.
Working alongside our key partners in law enforcement and all the others involved, including Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish SPCA, has been vital to our efforts to tackle wildlife crime and the dedication of those who seek to protect and conserve our wildlife is truly valued.
Roseanna Cunningham MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform
Email: Hugh Dignon