As the Open Seasons Order allowing the hunting of birds begins on September 1st Minister of State for Heritage at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage Malcolm Noonan has issued the following statement:

“Biodiversity in Ireland (as it is globally), is coming under pressure from many different sources. Such pressures combined can have a negative impact on many species. Our wild bird populations are particularly susceptible and it is important that we fully understand how our actions and other factors cumulatively can impact on the viability of vulnerable bird species. It is essential to examine the sustainability of many of our practices given the pressure that successive generations have put on our fragile ecosystems. Our birdlife is an essential component of the natural ecosystems that we too are part of.

Therefore, I believe it is necessary for us to look again at how our practices impact on our bird populations.

As outlined in NPWS’s 2019 Article 12 report, the conservation status of a number of species which are permitted to be hunted at certain times of the year under the Open Seasons Order is declining, including Red Grouse, Golden Plover, Woodcock, Shoveler and Snipe. It’s difficult to assess the sustainability of hunting these birds as there are some gaps in the data on population size and trends and we do not have information on the numbers of birds hunted annually.

It’s clear that we need a new way forward – based on scientific evidence, collaboration and strategic action – to ensure the sustainable hunting of birds of conservation concern in Ireland. To this end, I have established a working group in NPWS to determine the next steps and to invite stakeholders to participate in a collaborative dialogue in the coming months to develop a plan for a sustainable future for these species in Ireland. In that, I want to respect fully the views of the various stakeholders and accept that some may be diametrically opposed. Nonetheless, I am keen to find common ground.

The wild bird hunting season opens on September 1st and, like many people, I am deeply concerned at the potentially unsustainable hunting of birds of conservation concern in Ireland. By the time the season comes around next year the National Parks and Wildlife Service at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the stakeholders will have concluded a paper for me on the science, the EU position and what can be done in Ireland in the short, medium and long term.”