Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) announced today a new strategy to gradually reduce the number of Barnacle Geese on Islay and at the same time to to increase the number of White Fronted Geese. Their press release: "The strategy will reduce crop damage by an estimated 25% to 35% by decreasing the number of barnacle geese, improving habitat for rare Greenland white-fronted geese, and helping farmers manage their land more effectively. It will support large numbers of barnacle and white-fronted geese on the island, as well as help local farmers whose land and crops are affected by the geese.
The island’s habitats are vital for Greenland barnacle and Greenland white-fronted geese, which are protected under European law. The barnacle goose population has grown from about 20,000 in 1987 to an average of over 41,000 in recent years. Farmers across the island have received funding to partially compensate for economic losses since 1992. Local and national organisations, including the Islay Goose Management Group, Islay NFUS, local staff from Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections office in Oban and SNH on Islay, have worked together on the new approach. More than 70% of the island will remain as undisturbed feeding areas for geese. This will include large areas of grassland on individual farms, RSPB reserves, rough grazing, dune grasslands, saltmarsh and roost areas. Continue reading...
Environment Minister Aileen McLeod said: “I welcome this long term strategy developed by SNH, Islay farmers and other stakeholders working to develop new approaches designed to support sustainable goose management on Islay. Aiming to significantly reduce the agricultural damage caused by geese through a variety of management techniques, the strategy will also support the Greenland white-fronted goose population. The strategy will inform management approaches to support sustainable agriculture on the island, whilst fulfilling our conservation obligations regarding goose populations and preserving the wildlife spectacle that Islay residents and visitors alike value so much.”
Eileen Stuart, head of policy and advice at SNH, added: “Barnacle geese numbers have increased steadily on Islay over the past 20 years or so, and farmers have played a crucial role in this conservation success story. But with more geese, there has been increased pressure on both farmers and the public purse. We believe this new, long-term strategy strikes the right balance between conservation, making sure Islay farmers can use their lands profitably, and responsible use of public money. Local stakeholders have been vital in the development of this project.”
Robert Epps, a local farmer and a member of the Islay Sustainable Goose Management Group, said: "Sustainability is the key to this pioneering plan. By adaptively managing the population of wintering geese, it should help sustain farmers` businesses, the geese themselves and their habitat. "It has been a difficult process at times, but our close involvement helped us understand the reasons for protected status and controls. Hopefully involving local farmers has also helped others appreciate the pressure being placed by geese on our farms." Crop damage will be reduced through scaring, diversionary feeding for Greenland white-fronted geese, and population reduction of Greenland barnacle geese. The local goose management group will develop a scheme to deliver the strategy objectives, and any population reduction will be made in increments.
The aims of the strategy include maintaining the Barnacle goose population at a sustainable level and increasing the number of Greenland white-fronted geese on Islay, through reducing disturbance, managing traditional feeding areas, and diversionary feeding.
The full Islay Sustainable Goose Management Strategy is available here