Agreement on Findhorn shooting not perfect – but great progress

ALMOST TWO YEARS of bitter infighting at one of Moray’s most beautiful spots has finally ended with an agreement – but with pressure remaining on Moray Council to face up to their responsibilities.

A Shooting Permit system has been put in place at the Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve (FBLNR) ahead of the shooting season, which will begin on September 1.

It is hoped it will put an end to the increasingly acrimonious relationship in the area between those wishing to legally shoot wildfowl and those seeking to use the reserve for other legal activities in a safe manner.

The permit system is the outcome of many months of negotiations led by Roy Dennis, Chair of the FBLNR Management Committee. Included in negotiations were local and national shooting groups as well as local ornithologists and conservationists, plus members of the citizens group, Friends of Findhorn Bay (FFB).

FFB represents the views of more than 800 local people who signed a formal petition to Moray Council in late 2015, asking for an outright ban on the shooting of geese and ducks on the Bay.

Lisa Mead, lead petitioner and steering group member of FFB said last night: “This is a step in the right direction, although it falls a long way short of what we consider to be a fair compromise.

“Since Moray Council had no appetite to pass a byelaw to ban the shooting, we have sought to find middle ground in the hope of at least improving the situation. We argued for three days per week with no shooting at all, in addition to Sundays, which is already a no shooting day in Scotland.

“We have ended up with only one extra day of no shooting, on Mondays. We feel this is very unfair to local residents, especially those living in Kinloss, who will still be woken up extremely early in the morning by shotgun fire, five days per week for six months of the year.

“I don’t think the people who shoot here have any idea how upset local people are by their actions. There are many hundreds of people who just don’t want any shooting here at all.”

The FFB general secretary meanwhile added, “I very much hope that the permit arrangements will bring some improvement to the situation, however We have said all along that what is needed is a local byelaw to regulate the shooting.

“We still expect the Council to face their responsibilities and get on with passing a byelaw to significantly reduce the amount of shooting on Findhorn Bay.”

The issue has been debated since 2006 when Moray Council first argued that it could not afford to put in place a byelaw to regulate shooting or a paid nature reserve warden to monitor it. Other nature reserves in Scotland have bylaws in place.

The areas where shooting is permitted and how to apply for a permit are now on FBLNR’s website.