Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
The Welsh Government recently undertook a consultation on options to promote the conservation of white-fronted geese in Wales. We received over 1,200 responses and I would like to thank everyone who submitted their views. All responses to the consultation have been carefully considered.
There are 2 types of white-fronted geese (WfG) which migrate to the UK for the winter; European white-fronted geese (EWfG) and Greenland white-fronted geese (GWfG). In 2015, WfG) were added to an international list of threatened species (the ‘IUCN Red List’). Furthermore, in 2015 the global population of GWfG was estimated to have fallen below 20,000 birds.
In the British Isles, the majority of GWfG spend the winter in Ireland and western Scotland, with west Wales being at the edge of the GWfG range. Nearly all GWfG overwintering in Wales do so on the Dyfi Estuary, north of Aberystwyth. The Dyfi is a designated European Special Protection Area (SPA) specifically for its GWfG population. It is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a National Nature Reserve. In early 2015, 26 GWfG were recorded on the Dyfi, the lowest count ever, running back to 1959 when regular counts began. However, there have been reports of sightings at other locations after many years of absence.
It is crucial we do all we can to conserve this iconic bird. I have carefully considered the range of responses made to the consultation to help us achieve this within Wales. The consultation responses did not generate any evidence to indicate GWfG are currently being shot in Wales.
This has led me to the conclusion the existing year-round voluntary moratorium on shooting GWfG in Wales on land over which shooting clubs have shooting rights is currently working effectively and is being adhered to by wildfowling clubs in Wales.
I have, therefore, decided the conservation of WfG in Wales is best achieved through continuing to work in partnership with the organisations and people who have a local knowledge of, and commitment to, the conservation of WfG in Wales. This can best be delivered through 2 approaches. Firstly, by continuing to work in partnership on the ground with the relevant stakeholders and promoting the existing voluntary moratorium on shooting GWfG in Wales on land over which wildfowling clubs have shooting rights. Secondly, through funding additional research into the conservation needs of this iconic bird.
This research includes:
- monitoring of GWfG numbers, distribution and behaviour on the Dyfi and Anglesey
- monitoring population age structure and condition
- monitoring movements of GWfG across their range (by satellite tracking)
- assessment of field condition in areas occupied by overwintering GWfG.
This work will help understand the level of vulnerability of GWfG within Wales and inform future management decisions. It will significantly improve our evidence base to better inform decisions on the most appropriate management of the geese and their habitat.
Overall the approach I have outlined will help secure a brighter future for GWfG within Wales, so that current and future generations of people can continue to enjoy the winter visits of this iconic species to Wales.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.