Ministerial Declarations for the Period May 2020 to April 2021
Under the terms of the EU Birds Directive, all EU member States, including Ireland, are bound to take measures to protect all wild birds and their habitats. The Directive allows Member States to make derogations from its protective measures where certain wild bird species are causing damage to crops, livestock and fauna or represent a threat to public health or safety or to air safety.
The Minister has signed a State-wide Declaration for the 12 month period from 1st May 2020 to 30th April 2021.
Some of the key features of these declarations are as follows:
Different control methods are allowed for different bird species in different situations
Three seagull species on the State-wide Declaration are confined to a particular area in North Dublin.
The use of non-meat based poisoned or unaesthetic bait to control certain species of Pigeon is only allowed under permit from the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This permit must be applied for in advance of control action occurring.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has extended the deadline for members of the public to forward comments/proposals in relation to the control of certain wild bird species.
The new deadline date for comments/proposals to be submitted to the Department is Friday February 19th 2021 at 5pm.
PROPOSED RESTRICTIONS ON LEAD AMMUNITION OVER WETLANDS DISCRIMINATE AGAINST FARMERS
IFA Environment and Rural Affairs Committee Chairman Paul O’Brien said he has serious concerns regarding the proposed restrictions on lead ammunition over wetlands.
He said the proposal is disproportionate and discriminatory toward farmers. At no point in the proposal is any consideration given to the farmer, landowner or gun club members who have a legitimate need to use firearms to protect livestock and crops.
“IFA had pointed out to the NPWS on numerous occasions over the last two years the effects the proposed restriction would have on farmers. We are extremely disappointed with Minister Noonan, who had at the first opportunity shown little or no regard for farmers’ concerns, the custodians of the countryside,” he said.
The proposal uses the RAMSAR definition of a wetland, which means over 80% of the country could be classed as a wetland. This will include farmyards and fields where farmers or gun club members will need to use a firearm to protect livestock and crops.
Under the new regulation, simply being in possession or using lead ammunition, a farmer or gun club members will be breaching the regulations and open to prosecution.
Steel gunshots, which are the most likely alternative to be used, are available at a comparable price, but no consideration has been given to the cost of replacement shotguns, which are capable of firing steel shot. Shotguns that have the correct safety requirement or which are proofed to fire steel shot have a replacement cost of over €2,000.
IFA Countryside Chairman Brian Rushe has welcomed the decision by the Heritage Minister Josepha Madigan to revoke the initial Wild Birds State Wide Declaration for the period 1 May 2020 to 30 April 2021.
Brian Rushe said wood pigeons can cause serious damage to crops at any stage of the season. It is important that farmers are allowed to control the bird because of the threat to a broad range of cereal, legume and vegetable crops throughout the twelve months of the year.
The EU Birds Directive 2009/147/EEC (the Birds Directive), provides a framework for the protection, management and control of all wild birds naturally occurring in the EU. Under Article 9(1)(a) of the directive, Member States may derogate from these terms for one or more of the following reasons: public health and safety; air safety; prevent serious damage to crops, livestock, forests, fisheries and water; protection of flora and fauna.
Wood pigeon are one of the birds which are part of this derogation and until this year farmers were allowed to control this species when they are causing critical damage to crops at any time of the season. This ability to limit wood pigeon damage was allowed all year round due to their tendency to inflict economic damage on a broad range of cereal, legume and vegetable crops throughout the twelve months.
The recent decision by The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (DCHG) to remove the months of June, July and August from the derogation timeframe for the control of wood pigeon will have serious effect on the economic viability of the tillage and field vegetable sectors. This change to the derogation needs to be reviewed immediately and reversed to in order to allow the continued control of the bird species throughout all months of the year.
IFA Countryside are lobbying to have this rescinded and with this in mind, please see the attached Submission to the NPWS. IFA has had a conference call meeting with NPWS last Monday to resolve this issue.
Sporadic outbreaks of Pigeon Paramyxovirus (PPMV-1) occur in domestic pigeons and wild birds throughout Ireland and this increases the risk of Newcastle Disease in poultry in Ireland. Newcastle Disease can cause severe illness and death in pigeons, ornamental birds and in poultry, both commercial and backyard. An outbreak in birds used for meat production or eggs, be that commercial or backyard would have serious implications. All the birds in the affected holdings would have to be euthanised, and movement restrictions would have to be imposed on all holdings with birds, within a 10 km radius of the affected holding.
Since the beginning of July, four outbreaks of the disease have been confirmed in pigeons, both racing and ornamental. Three of the cases were detected in the Southwest, the other was detected in Northeast. This indicates the risk of an outbreak of Newcastle Disease is higher. Control measures have been put in place on the affected premises to ensure that the risk of the disease spreading outside these holdings is reduced.
DAFM is advising all bird owners/keepers to be extra vigilant; to ensure birds are vaccinated against Newcastle’s Disease where possible (racing pigeon owners are reminded that vaccination of racing pigeons is compulsory – European Communities (Newcastle Disease) Regulations 2012 – SI No. 57 of 2012) and to prevent contact between domestic and wild birds. Biosecurity information is available in the Links and Documents section below.
Bird owners and keepers are also reminded that suspicion of the presence of Newcastle Disease in any bird species must be notified to DAFM. If you suspect the presence of Newcastle Disease you must contact the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine without delay. Inside normal office hours contact your local Regional Veterinary Office by phone or LO CALL 0761 064 400. Outside normal office hours ring the national disease emergency hotline number 1850 200 456.
The clinical signs in affected birds can be very variable. Further information on clinical signs can be accessed using the following link
The virus associated with Newcastle Disease can cause cases of conjunctivitis and flu-like symptoms in humans. Humans pick up the disease generally by handling or being in the same air space as the affected birds. The disease in humans is generally self-limiting but anyone who suspects they may have contracted the disease should contact their doctor.
A disease fatal to rabbits and hares, but of no risk to humans, has been confirmed in the wild in Ireland for the first time. The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is asking the public to report any suspected cases.
Rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) was first reported in domestic (farmed) rabbits in China in 1984 killing millions of animals within one year of its discovery. By 1986 this viral disease had been found in continental Europe and has since spread globally leading to significant mortality in wild populations of rabbits.
In 2010, a new more virulent strain of this virus (RHD2) emerged in France. It causes death within a few days of infection with sick animals having swollen eyelids, partial paralysis and bleeding from the eyes and mouth. Most distressingly, in the latter states close to death, animals exhibit unusual behavior emerging from cover into the open and convulsing or fitting before dying.
The disease was reported in Ireland from domestic rabbits in 2018, but has now been confirmed in the wild from a rabbit in Co. Wicklow and another in Co. Clare. Today, the virus has been confirmed from a hare in Co. Wexford. In all cases individual animals were tested at Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine Laboratories where RHD2 was subsequently confirmed. While all three locations continue to support apparently healthy wild populations, unlike the situation in the UK where mass mortalities have been reported, NPWS Conservation Rangers continue to monitor the situation.
The virus has been detected throughout Europe, in wild rabbits, hares and seemingly unrelated species including voles and shrews. The Irish hare is native to Ireland and found nowhere else and should this disease prove as infectious and lethal here as it has done elsewhere in Europe, the impact on the hare could be catastrophic.
Dr. Ferdia Marnell of the NPWS Scientific Unit outlined his concerns: “Rabbits are central to wild ecosystems, being the main food for many predators from stoats to eagles that in turn regulate other animal populations. A decline in our wild rabbits will have numerous knock-on consequences. Of further concern is the potential for the disease to spread through the Irish hare population.”
The disease is highly contagious and can be spread directly between animals and in the faeces and urine of infected animals, as well as by insects and on human clothing. In addition the incubation period may last several days and apparently uninfected animals may in fact be carriers. Under these circumstances the catching of hares in nets, their transportation in boxes and the collection and holding of hares in confined areas can all be considered to increase the risk of disease spread.
Accordingly the Department has decided to suspend the licences issued to the Irish Coursing Club to capture and tag hares for the 2019/20 hare coursing season with immediate effect until a clearer understanding of the extent, spread and implications of the RHD2 virus emerges.
Dr. Marnell stressed “that the Rabbit Haemorrhagic disease presents absolutely no threat to human health and it is entirely safe to handle infected or recently dead rabbits or hares provided normal hygiene is followed”.
The public – particularly landowners, farmers, vets and the hare coursing community – is being asked to be on high alert and to report any suspected sightings of diseased rabbits and hares as soon as possible to help efforts to monitor and control the disease.
This can be done by contacting the NPWS by Phone (1890 383 000) or Email ([email protected].)
Dr Neil Reid, a Conservation Biologist at Queen’s University Belfast, who is also tracking the disease across the island warns of the significant impact this could have on the wild ecosystem. He said “I am asking people to be on high alert, to report any suspected sightings of diseased rabbits and, particularly hares, as soon as possible so we can monitor this rapidly developing situation as it unfolds. This is an example of how citizen science can really contribute to conservation biology.”
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