Thursday, 8 November 2018

SGA CALLS TO ASSIST POLICE OVER LOSS OF HEN HARRIER TAG TRANSMISSIONS

On Monday, the SGA made the statement, below, regarding loss of transmission from satellite tags fitted to 4 Hen Harriers, communicated in a press release by RSPB Scotland.
We reiterate that any member with any information should contact Police Scotland immediately. 
We would also like to make it known the SGA has requested to Scottish Government on several occasions that tags be independently monitored in order to offer the general public, stakeholders, government and law enforcement agencies greater transparency over what is happening in incidents such as these, or indeed as much clarity as is possible without prejudicing important work.
The SGA understands that of 7 Harrier chicks tagged in Spring this year at Mar Lodge, 3 died within weeks whilst still on the estate at Mar Lodge, which is owned by National Trust for Scotland. This may be in keeping with studied research showing high natural mortality of Hen Harriers in year one of life (believed to be in the region of 70 percent, although this is debated in some quarters).
It is understood one of the tags stopped signalling for several days before reconnecting, with the likely explanation proffered being that the solar tag (presumably attached to a chick) was face down, making it unable to achieve sufficient power to send a signal. It was thought the carcass was perhaps then turned over by a predator, enabling a signal to be transmitted again, as the device then had sufficient light to re-establish contact.
Should a bird have come to an end, away from where it was originally tagged or was last signalling, it could be similarly difficult to locate, particularly if the tag loses the ability to transmit in the wild. If cached underground by a predator such as a fox, attempts to find any carcass is likely to be futile, as is widely and independently acknowledged. 
In SNH's satellite tagged eagle report, for example, the final signal of around 25 percent of the tags earmarked as being 'suspicious' were neither on- or near- grouse moors. Some were in the west of Scotland, many miles from grouse interests and in island areas where, again, there is no grouse shooting at all. 
In those cases- away from any grouse moors-, no birds or tags were found either, highlighting the difficulties associated with locating birds and recovering satellite tags using final fixes or signals. 
This was acknowledged by the RSPB themselves when Harrier Brian's last signal was recorded on one of their own Reserves at Insh Marshes but no body or tag was found, although no speculation regarding Brian was relayed to the media by RSPB. At that time, RSPB only stated, on a website blog aimed at its members, that final signal was only an 'indication' of where a bird was spending time but was not an actual indicator of where a bird may have died.
See their response to the disappearance of 'Brian', here: 

If anyone is out and about in the landscape, please look very carefully at the ground around them and report to Police Scotland, if anything should be discovered.
Birds or tags, if recoverable, may be many miles from the last known signal.
The SGA believes satellite tags should be monitored by neutral agencies in order for everyone to better understand what happens when a tag stops- and whether birds are being persecuted.  If they are, facts need to be known. This is in everyone's interest and the SGA has asked Scottish Government for this step towards accountability to be taken forward.
Using an evidence-based and transparent approach, appropriate action and steps can be taken by all.
The SGA has never, at any stage, stated that persecution does not exist. This is reflected in our policy in that, if an SGA member is convicted of a wildlife crime, they are removed from the SGA. 
Similarly, if an SGA member is proven to be responsible for the loss of transmission from these tags, we will act.
However, evidence and facts, rather than speculation, are important if further progress is to be made.


Responding to the RSPB press release on Monday, a Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, said: “Until the findings of satellite tags are monitored by independent experts or bodies, we will never fully understand what happens when tags lose transmission nor will anyone be any closer to being able to do anything about it.
“There could be many factors at play. Our understanding is that the majority of the 7 tagged Hen Harriers chicks at Mar Lodge this year have died in some circumstance or another, with one tag going off radar for some days before signalling again, so we are not going to speculate on cases.
“Around a quarter of ‘suspicious’ tags studied in SNH’s satellite tagged eagle report lost transmission away from grouse moor areas, including islands, yet the tags themselves were never recovered.
If anyone has any information, they should contact Police Scotland.”

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

SGA STATEMENT: REVIVE CAMPAIGN SEEKS TO PUT THOUSANDS OF RURAL WORKING FAMILIES ON THE DOLE


Please find below the full statement from The Scottish Gamekeepers Association regarding the launch of the Revive campaign. 


A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “Despite the veneer, the majority of these organisations and individuals have never been interested in ‘reform’. People should not be fooled. This is a wrecking ball campaign by a cohort seeking to ban grouse shooting and to put thousands of Scotland’s rural workers and their families on the dole.
“Over the coming weeks, while government independently reviews grouse shooting, we expect the track record of tactics which has seen members within this group covertly filming land managers undertaking legal activities and spreading misinformation in a bid to get the result they crave.
“Those seeking to use their charitable lobbying influence in Edinburgh to kill off livelihoods should take responsibility for the consequences and provide alternative employment for the lives they will wreck.”


Saturday, 27 October 2018

SGA CHAIRMAN RESPONDS AGAIN TO GOAT HUNTING FURORE


SGA Chairman Alex Hogg has written to the Telegraph in the wake of #Goatgate this week. The full text appears below.

The SGA has learned some individuals have been critical of representative organisations for a lack of response to this emerging story and wants to make some points known regarding its own involvement.

The SGA would like to make it clear to all members that, as the story was breaking on Day 1, SGA Chairman Alex Hogg provided direct comments to The Scotsman newspaper, the iPaper, The Sun, The Telegraph, Deadline News Agency, Pressteam Agency, The Press and Journal and The Daily Mail as well as providing context and information for many individual journalists covering the story.

Due to dealing with many other important organisational issues such as time-dependent Government consultations, the SGA declined some broadcast interviews on Day 2, allowing others to take up the slack, but Chairman Alex Hogg provided this further article and a further comment article for The Sun newspaper, on Day 3.

Text from Telegraph article, here: By SGA Chairman Alex Hogg.

"Some people don’t like to see animals killed. As a gamekeeper of over 40 years, it is something I have become accustomed to, as part of a job that requires the legal control of abundant predators, such as foxes and crows, in order to give ground-nesting birds a chance in life. That includes the curlew and the plover, not just the game birds. And while I have respect for other peoples’ viewpoint as regards killing, I personally believe and understand why it is sometimes necessary- and advantageous.

I have not controlled goats, personally. I have had to kill wild or injured sheep before, but not for sporting reasons. Hundreds of thousands of animals are killed in Scotland each year to protect various interests, whether it is trees, crops or private property. Over 300 buzzards a year are killed at Scottish airports for air safety, yet people don’t stop having holidays to Tenerife, even if they abhor the idea of protected birds of prey being killed.

The public aren’t keen on hungry seagulls eating their sandwiches at lunch time and councils will order in the pest control, on the QT, to keep residents safe. We kill rats in industrial quantities, for hygiene and to control the spread of disease. They are animals, too, even if less photogenic than some.

Back to goats, the RSPB, with over a million members, and a strap-line of “giving nature a home” controls feral goats at Inversnaid, on Loch Lomond, to protect woodland.

This has been done by culling (and means such as using contraceptive darts) and is rightly given the name of conservation to protect important habitats. Yet, show the gun and outrage ensues. Why? What makes one type of killing different from another?

In my personal view, we appear to have forgotten that management of the land and management of species often go hand in hand and someone has to pay for that management, either by realising a sporting asset or through tax payer’s money. On Thursday it was announced that the RSPB and SNH will receive £6 million to eradicate Orkney’s stoats, again for conservation reasons. Gamekeepers manage stoats daily, at no cost to the public.

Last year, in Scotland, 112, 500 deer were killed and Michael Russell, - the Brexit Minister who responded angrily to the picture of Larysa Switlyk posing with a dead goat on Islay - has personally campaigned for more culling to promote Scottish Government’s forestry expansion target and to bring more protected sites into favourable condition.
Yet, in the west, feral goats can do as much damage to the natural heritage as deer can. There seems to be a selective view of the “natural heritage” and what ought to be killed without the knowledge of the processes which underpin it.
Similarly, under government approval, increasing numbers of deer are shot in public forests at night and, only a few years ago, John Muir Trust, named after the Scottish conservationist, left 86 stags to rot away on a Knoydart hillside. I can't recall the same level of abuse being directed towards them as the American TV star.

Michael Russell was at pains to make a distinction between “trophy hunting” and land management. He has a point. Ultimately, though, a goat is shot or it’s not. Furthermore, his own government’s policy targets will necessitate many more goats being shot in the west in the future, whether by an American huntress, a local farmer, or whoever else.

By transporting a bit of her own “hunting” culture to a Scotland unaccustomed to it, the huntress misread the mood, no doubt. As to the shooting of the blackface, I cannot comment without knowing full facts.
However, with social media as it is (the threats and abuse were possibly more illegal than the hunting), politicians have to be in possession of all the facts before wading in. The Greens chose to make political capital for an anti-bloodsports policy that would put nearly 9,000 people, like me, on the dole. That is their prerogative.
But the public have to realise that species management is carried out the world over. Scotland is not a special case. 
If people want to pay to help that process along, do we say “no”? Shooting in Scotland is worth pounds £200 million a year, and supports 8,800 jobs.
Maybe we just need to tone down the pictures next time." 


Friday, 26 October 2018

NEW GRADINGS FOR SALMON RIVERS ANNOUNCED


Marine Scotland has announced the gradings for Scottish salmon rivers following changes to its approach in modelling the conservation status of rivers.
These gradings first came into force in April 2016 in order to regulate exploitation and determine which measures were necessary to protect the declining conservation status of wild salmon.
However, many complaints were received as anglers and custodians felt the methodology did not adequately capture the true picture of stocks in certain waters and this has now been refined further.
Scotland's 173 rivers have now been classified and their gradings can be searched online at https://www.gov.scot/Resource/0054/00542420.pdf
Rivers with a Category 3 rating will have to apply mandatory catch and release.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

SGA WELCOMES RECORD LOW RAPTOR CRIMES IN SCOTLAND


The SGA has issued the following response to the official figures from Scottish Government which showed a record low, since records began in 2004, of recorded bird of prey crimes in Scotland.
In 2017, there was only one recorded case of raptor poisoning in Scotland.
The SGA has also called for a review of how satellite tags are monitored in Scotland.

Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “In 2010, in Scotland, there were 22 cases of raptor poisoning which was unacceptable.
"Seven years on, we are looking at 1 case, with shooting and trapping reduced substantially as well. Few, if any, types of crime in this country have declined at such a rate. This is welcomed by the SGA.
 “The SGA has expelled 6 members in 6 years for wildlife crime convictions.
"Going forward, we believe satellite tagged birds should be monitored independently, in the same way SASA currently handles poisoning cases for Government, so that everyone involved in tackling this issue can understand more about any loss of transmission from tags and can develop future strategy, from a position of trust.”


While the SGA acknowledges that persecution still exists and will continue in its efforts to reduce this  further in Scotland, the organisation believes it is important to remember how far things have come in Scotland in the last 10 years.



Obtained through FOI from Police Scotland, this graph, up until 2014-2015 (anticipated updates will show a similar but reducing pattern) shows wildlife crime set against other types of recorded crime in Scotland.













Tuesday, 18 September 2018

SGA DEER MANAGERS INTRODUCE LOCAL CONSUMERS TO VENISON


SGA members in South Lanarkshire introduced newcomers to locally sourced venison last week, highlighting the possibilities for potential new markets with targeted central support.
Trained urban deer managers provided venison burgers and square sausage, under Scottish Quality Wild Venison assurance, to adults and kids at the Langlands Moss nature reserve in East Kilbride.
Kids from local scout groups and parents were led on walks through the woods to learn about bats and moths at the event hosted by Friends of Langlands Moss.
There they enjoyed the healthy venison laid on free of charge by the local deer managers, with many further inquiries as to where they could buy it themselves.
With Scottish Government promising to invest in local larder facilities to enable more venison to reach previously untapped domestic markets such as consumers in the central belt, the East Kilbride event highlighted the benefits targeted investment could have in growing demand for a quality product which is sustainable, lean and highly nutritious. 
Local deer manager and member of the SGA Deer Group, David Quarrell said: “If a pilot project was started in this area, with a proper chill facility, there is real potential to get venison in front of more people. It is in sustainable supply, it is healthy and realising this resource means locally sourced food, a very low carbon footprint and potential for future growth. It also means that deer are being properly managed around towns and cities and helping to meet Scottish Government objectives in managing green spaces, cutting down on poaching, and preventing deer vehicle collisions.”



Monday, 17 September 2018

TOUGHER RODENTICIDE RULES FOR GAMEKEEPERS FOR PERMANENT BAITING


Tougher restrictions on permanent rodenticide baiting by gamekeepers, farmers and pest controllers, with legal backing, have been introduced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the UK rodenticide regulatory body. A detailed booklet, CRRU Guidance: Permanent Baiting, is available from thinkwildlife.org/download/.
The practice is only approved where high potential for reinvasion is identified and when all alternatives have been considered. It is prohibited as a 'just-in-case' preventive measure when no signs of rats, nor high reinvasion threat, is present.
The new restrictions address a high risk of wildlife contamination through small mammals such as field mice and voles entering bait stations, eating rodenticide then falling prey to a wide range of predatory birds and mammals. The same applies to some small birds, which possibly explains why anticoagulant residues are found in sparrowhawks and peregrines, which feed almost entirely on birds taken in flight.
One of the main objectives of the UK Rodenticide Stewardship Regime is to reduce residues in all UK wildlife. Restricting the use of permanent baiting will significantly contribute towards achieving this, according to Dr Alan Buckle, chairman of the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use, the body responsible to UK government for the stewardship regime.
Where permanent baiting is justified, some baits containing bromadiolone or difenacoum are allowed, but not all. Those containing the other three second generation anticoagulants are prohibited.
Rodenticide users need to check product labels carefully before use. There are new statements for prohibited as well as allowed permanent baiting rodenticides. For the latter, the key label phrase is “Permanent baiting is strictly limited to sites with high potential for reinvasion when other methods of control have proven insufficient.”
Dr Buckle adds, "In all situations, permanent baiting must never be a routine practice. But as a monitoring device, non-toxic placebo baits should be used more often.
"To counteract rats' acute fear of new things, there is good reason for having tamper-proof bait stations in permanent outdoor locations, but with placebo rather than rodenticide present.
"Inspecting placebo-baited stations regularly can give early warning of a new infestation. Clearly, when this happens, a temporary switch to rodenticide baits can be made until the infestation is cleared. Normally this should take no more than 35 days, followed by resumption with placebo."

Friday, 14 September 2018

Travelling with a European Firearms Pass if there’s no Brexit deal


Travelling with a European Firearms Pass if there’s no Brexit deal
As it stands you require a European Firearms Pass (EFP) if traveling between EU countries with your firearms and shotguns. EFPs are issued by the EU country in which a firearm owner is resident. You do not need an EFP if you are travelling within the UK and you hold a valid UK firearms certificate.
After March 2019 if there is no deal
Should the UK leave the EU with no deal, EFPs would no longer be available to UK residents wishing to travel with their firearms to EU countries. You would need to comply with whatever licensing or other requirements each EU country decides to impose, as well as UK import and export licensing requirements (see link below for information about export controls but, in summary, export licences would be required for exports of firearms to EU countries, although there would be an exemption for firearms travelling as personal effects).
EFPs would no longer be recognised for EU visitors to the UK. Their sponsors would, as now, have to apply for a Visitor’s Permit but it would no longer be a legal requirement to also produce a valid EFP.
What you need to do
UK residents wishing to travel to EU countries with their firearm or shotgun after 29 March 2019 should contact the authorities of the countries concerned for information about their licensing requirements. This advice would also apply to UK residents who are due to be in an EU country with their firearm at the point when the UK leaves the EU.
If you are sponsoring an EU visitor to the UK, you should continue to apply to the local police force for a Visitor’s Permit. Permits issued before the UK leaves the EU will remain valid until they expire.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

SGA WELCOMES GOVERMENT COMMITMENT TO GROW VENISON MARKET



The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has welcomed the Scottish Government's commitment to growing the venison industry in Scotland and beyond, saying it is time for the nation to make the best use of a prized but under-utilised asset.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg has been a key member of the steering group helping to drive forward the government's strategic 9-point plan aimed at major sector growth in wild and farmed deer by 2030.
Food and drink is now one of the key pillars of the nation's economy but the SGA has felt, for some considerable time, that the undoubted potential of venison and game has not yet been realised.
The announcement of governmental support has therefore been hugely welcomed by the SGA, whose members include many hundreds of trained men and women responsible for managing deer in Scotland; an industry sustaining 2520 full-time jobs.
"Venison is a tremendous product. It is healthy, lean and sustainable and, for some time, we have been asking for more support to see it reach some of its huge potential," said SGA Chairman Alex Hogg.
"It has been a long-held aspiration of the SGA that venison and game should become a regular part of our diet but there have been barriers and not enough awareness.
"We'd like to thank Fergus Ewing for his energy in driving this forward, for recognising the potential that exists and engaging the sector on what can be done. SGA members have the qualifications and meat hygiene training to push forward activity on the ground. With the right level of government support, we are sure we can get venison into local markets; with the potential for people to see deer in a very different light.
"When we first spoke to Fergus Ewing about the potential in the market, he pulled out the stops to pull together all the relevant parties. We are particularly pleased to see recognition at government level that investment in local larder facilities can potentially create employment, ensure the venison resource is used locally and will also help government meet its deer management targets. This is a win-win situation the SGA has advocated for some time and we look forward to helping carry the plans forward."

The key elements of the 9 point plan include: (see full plan at the foot of the official press release).


  • Establish an industry hub for market research and information
  • Identify new markets and build supply chains
  • Drive forward quality assurance
  • Develop skills and training
  • New Entrant and Expansion Fund for deer farming plus the launch of a monitor farm programme
  • Invest in area-based facilities
  • Marketing and education in schools
  • Build on Research and Development to improve productivity
  • Develop new recipes and products

Please see the full Scottish Government press release, below.


Strategic vision outlines sector growth to 2030.
The first ever strategy for Scotland's wild and farmed venison sector has been launched, with the aim of bringing together the wild and farmed deer interests for the first time, and setting out nine "key area" for growth across the sector.   
Those key areas include skills-building initiatives, a fund to support new entrants to venison farming and the need for further research and development.
Speaking from Downfield Farm venison processing plant in Cupar, Fife, Minister for Rural Affairs Mairi Gougeon said:
"I am delighted to help to launch this strategy for this exciting, burgeoning sector in Scotland's food and drink success story.
"Venison is a premium food, renowned for its quality, provenance and health credentials, and its reputation continues to rise in both domestic and international markets.  We know the venison market in the UK alone is estimated to be worth around £100 million per year and demand has been increasing year on year. With this strategy in place, the sector in a Scotland now has a fantastic opportunity to meet rising demand, displace imports and target new market opportunities.     
"I welcome that the industry has come together to develop a plan that will build on the strong foundations put in place by the venison pioneers in Scotland. Deer farming and management play a significant role in supporting a thriving and sustainable rural economy and this strategy will support our shared wider ambitions to grow it.  
"And it's very fitting to launch the new strategy on Scottish Venison Day and during Food and Drink fortnight, the annual celebration and promotion of Scotland's food and drink sector. The Scottish Government looks forward to working with the sector to take forward the actions contained with the strategy."
Bill Bewsher, Chairman, The Scottish Venison Partnership, said:
"Venison producers and processors in Scotland, both wild and farmed, will take very significant encouragement from this new strategy. 
"We are exceptionally fortunate that on the one hand we have a rich asset in our wild deer as a sustainable source of healthy food and, on the other, increasing enthusiasm and undoubted potential to grow our farmed venison sector to meet expanding markets both in the UK and elsewhere. This strategy points all of us in the right direction with a set of common goals for 2030 and we are grateful for the additional support forthcoming from government in helping us to meet them.”


Download the full strategy from this link. https://news.gov.scot/resources/venison-strategy-final

Monday, 13 August 2018

STRATHBRAAN RAVEN LICENSE UPDATE

Scientists in the Strathbraan area witnessed nests with four fledged Curlew chicks this year: a first.
An update on the Raven License: The Community perspective.

Scottish Raptor Study Group has launched a Judicial Review of SNH’s decision to grant a licence to the Strathbraan community to control ravens to protect critically endangered wading birds.
The Research licence was the result of 18 months of work by the local farmers and gamekeepers here who undertook counts of ravens and wading birds before applying for the license, which is supported by the SGA and Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Many of the land mangers in the license area had taken part in the Scottish Government ‘Understanding Predation’ project, overseen by Scotland’s Moorland Forum.
A multi-party project, Understanding Predation brought together farmers, gamekeepers, ornithologists, raptor workers, RSPB Scotland, forestry interests and others with the shared objective of saving declining waders.
The final report- a unique collaboration of science and local knowledge- concluded that bold and urgent actions were required if Scotland was to save its dwindling populations.
Breeding Curlew, described as the UK’s most urgent conservation priority, have declined by 46 percent in 25 years.
There are now estimated to be only 250- 300 pairs south of Birmingham, a population which could be lost in 8 years.
In Wales, it is predicted the birds could be gone completely by 2025 and Scotland’s response to this urgent wake-up call is now vital.
The UK hosts about a quarter of the world’s breeding pairs in Spring and Summer and what happens here has an impact on global survival.
Inspired by the project, land managers in Strathbraan, who had witnessed the devastation caused by flocks of juvenile ravens hunting fields of wader chicks and eggs, decided to apply for a control licence to protect the local populations.
The Strathbraan area is a core site for breeding waders; something acknowledged by the RSPB’s own  Tayside Wader Survey summary report 2013.
It described Strathbraan East as ‘nationally important’ for Curlew, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Snipe and Strathbraan as nationally important for Lapwing and Oystercatcher.
Despite this, populations are still suffering decline (although comparatively less than many other un-managed areas).
The research licence, now to be contested, is an attempt to preserve the core breeding population in a key area.
Crucially, the licence is to protect waders and ravens. In deciding upon the number of ravens to be taken (69), SNH approved the licence on the basis that the numbers would not affect the conservation status of the raven.

Recently, news emerged of the assessment by SNH’s SAC on the ‘science’ of the license.
In terms of the community, we volunteered to suspend the licence whilst these aspects were being looked at. It should be noted that it was not the job of the local land managers to craft the scientific model. It was the job of local land managers to look after the birds and carry out the control humanely and in compliance with the law and spirit of the license, which they have done.

For the community, the justification for the licence came in the shape of what everyone expected- a very good breeding season for Waders here and much better protection for them than in recent times when raven flocks have wiped out chicks in the lowland fields. This, for us, has been a success, no matter how it is measured.

Here is the Community’s statement and latest position: 

“Local farmers and gamekeepers have been united in trying to prevent further loss of rare birds such as the Curlew, which would be tragic especially as action on the ground clearly makes a difference.
“Thanks to the licence, and hens being in good breeding condition, we are delighted to say it has been an excellent breeding year in Strathbraan. Folk at the sharp end have even seen nests of four fledged Curlew chicks for the first time, greatly helped by being better able to protect the chicks and eggs from the raven flocks that have been so damaging in recent years.
“In terms of wader conservation, therefore, it has been a much better season. The license has been temporarily suspended so those on the science side can make adjustments.
“However, the community remains committed to wading bird conservation, spurred on by what has been achieved so far.”