Defra have published their long-awaited General Licence for gamebird releasing on European Protected Sites - view the information here

Defra has published their long-awaited General Licence for gamebird releasing on European Protected Sites.
 
The releasing of pheasants and red-legged partridges in EU protected sites and within a 500m buffer around them will be licensed for an interim period of four years whilst Defra and Natural England undertake work to assess impacts of gamebird management on individual sites.

During that time, release in these areas will only be possible under licence and conditions will apply to limit release densities below the threshold at which there is any possible risk of damage.

European protected sites are: 

·         special area of conservation (SAC)

·         special protection area (SPA)

·         Ramsar wetland

·         potential SPA, possible SAC or proposed Ramsar wetland

For pheasants, the licence conditions stipulate that the density of pheasants released within a European site must be no more than 700 birds per hectare of release pen, or lower if required by a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) consent. 

For partridges, the density of red-legged partridges released within a European site must be no more than 700 birds per hectare of land they inhabit, or lower if required by a SSSI consent. You must site red-legged partridge release pens in cover crops on arable land or on improved grassland within European sites. 

Within a 500m buffer surrounding European sites, the density of pheasants released within the 500m buffer zone must be no more than 1,000 birds per hectare of the release pen. For red-legged partridges, the density released within the 500m buffer zone must be no more than 1,000 birds per hectare of land they inhabit. 

All shoot managers releasing gamebirds on European sites and in the surrounding buffer will need to provide Defra and Natural England with details on the total number and species of gamebird released within a European site and the buffer along with the location. 

Details of any relevant SSSI consent will also need to be provided. An online reporting form will be available from 31st May 2021. For shoots that cannot work within the conditions of the General Licence, an Individual Licensing regime, administered by Natural England will be available for shoots to apply to operate outside the conditions of the General Licence. 

Liam Bell, Chairman of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, said: “News that gamebird releasing can continue on or near protected sites according to best practice guidelines, is a good result for the sector. 

“We will be seeking reassurances from Defra and Natural England over data confidentiality in relation to the reporting requirements. We will also be pushing for a much more effective and prompt Individual licensing regime for those who cannot operate under the General Licence conditions.

“We will continue to update members when we have reviewed the licence conditions.” 
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Please note that the new arrangements come into effect on 31st May. Advice is now available on an online tool to enable you to consider your licensing options and establish whether there is any additional action you need to take.  

Anyone with a gamebird query can also contact gamebirds@naturalengland.org.uk which is Natural England’s single point of contact for all gamebird-related queries. 

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