Wildlife crime in Scotland: annual report 2021

The tenth wildlife crime annual report, with new data from the financial year 2020 to 2021.

Ministerial Foreword

This is the tenth Scottish Government annual wildlife crime report and my first as Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform & Islands. It covers the 2021 calendar year, using recorded statistical data from the 2020-2021 financial year. The aim of this report is to highlight trends by building on the data provided by previous reports and encourage discussion on how best to further reduce wildlife crime.

It is frustrating to see a 55% increase in the 2020-21 recorded wildlife crime incidents when compared to the 2019-20 calendar year. It is likely that the increased public presence in the countryside as Covid-19 restrictions have relaxed has allowed for an increase in crimes being witnessed and recorded. However, there is no doubt that the number of crimes recorded even with more of them being discovered by the public will still not represent the full picture. Wildlife crime has no place in Scotland and the Scottish Government continues to be committed to building on previous measures brought in to tackle selfish crimes against Scotland's magnificent wildlife.

There has been a sharp rise in the poaching of our fresh water fish in this reporting year. Salmon and other fresh water fish not only support a wide variety of human activities but are a vital part of our ecosystem by bringing essential nutrients inland from the sea to allow our landscapes to thrive. This underlines the continued essential work carried out through the partnership of Police Scotland, Fisheries Management Scotland and District Salmon Fisheries Boards. In January 2022, the Scottish Government published the Scottish Wild Salmon Strategy. This set out five priority themes for action which form a framework of coordinated action to protect wild salmon, including the effectiveness of deterrents to poachers. The accompanying Strategy Implementation Plan was published in February 2023 which will guide collective action for wild Atlantic salmon across government, business and charitable sectors.

This year has also seen a large increase in the number of crimes involving hunting with dogs. I am hopeful that through the passage of the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill, we will see a greater deterrent effect in this area, as we have clarified the law and made prosecution more straightforward, as well as through the impact of the closing of loopholes exploited by those who aimed to evade the previous legislation in this area. The Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill has been passed by the Scottish Parliament and will soon be implemented to become another important tool in the fight against wildlife crime.

While there has been a reduction in the number of recorded crimes against raptor species, we must acknowledge the likelihood that not all cases of raptor persecution will have been witnessed or recorded. As we set out in our 2022-23 programme for government we will implement the recommendations of the "Werritty Review" and introduce licensing for grouse moors and muirburn, to ensure that the management of driven grouse moors and related activities are undertaken in an environmentally sustainable manner. Our Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on the 21 March 2023 and includes the recommendations of the "Werritty Review".

Alongside the negative impacts caused by wildlife crime, our iconic species are also struggling due to the damage done to our land by centuries of human activity.

That is why the Scottish Government have developed a £65 million package of support specifically for projects that benefit nature. The Nature Restoration Fund (NRF) is designed to deliver landscape scale, multi-partner, multi-year projects that restore and protect habitats, safeguard wildlife and tackle causes of biodiversity loss. These projects will help to meet the vision we have set out in our new, draft Scottish Biodiversity Strategy to halt biodiversity loss by 2030 and reverse declines by 2045. The NRF forms only a small part of our £500 million investment in Scotland's natural habitat, with additional plans to increase peatland restoration, forestry planting, protect 30% of our land and introduce nature networks.

Our diverse wildlife brings so many benefits, not only via its contributions to the ecosystems we need to survive, but also by supporting our wellbeing and enriching our lives. I hope the actions I have outlined not only on wildlife crime but also on nature restoration demonstrates the commitment of the Scottish Government to allow wildlife to thrive in a modern Scotland.

I'd like to give thanks to our key partners in law enforcement and those involved in the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland for continuing their dedicated work to combat wildlife crime.

Mairi Gougeon MSP

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands


Email: Robyn.McCormack@gov.scot

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