Wildfowlers are urged to agree voluntary permit system

WILDFOWLERS ON FINDHORN BAY nature reserve are being urged to sign up to a voluntary permit system created after mediation on the future of the sport in the area.

The agreement was reached following extensive mediation with the various groups involved in a dispute over rights on the nature reserve.

However, local wildfowlers have indicated that they will not adhere to the voluntary permit system – and insist that Moray Council should pass a new by-law on the issue.

Now ahead of a meeting next week that will discuss the issue, senior councillors have appealed for calm, calling on those involved in the sport and campaigners wishing to end all wildfowling in the area to adhere to the agreement.

A petition was first presented to Councillors by the Friends of Findhorn Bay group in December of 2015 – that called for a total ban on geese shooting. This was soon followed by another petition from the wildfowling lobby locally and nationally.

Councillors deferred any decision on a byelaw and called on the parties to resolve the issue through mediation. It was through mediation that the voluntary system emerged, allowing shooting during the season, but restricted the number of shots and reduced the number of days in the week for shooting to five.

At next week’s meeting of the Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee, councillors will be asked to further defer the hearing of petitions from both sides until the end of the season in February 2018, thereafter to assess the voluntary system’s effectiveness.

Yesterday leader of Moray Council, George Alexander, and the chair of Moray Council’s Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee, John Cowe, said that all involved should work towards making to the voluntary system work.

Councillor Alexander said: “The introduction of a byelaw is the very last resort for the council – it is a lengthy, expensive legal process that could also incur significant costs to enforce so there is no guarantee that members would agree to scarce resources being used in this way, given the host of competing priorities the council faces.

“It’s in everyone’s best interests to ensure this voluntary system works; if the council did decide to promote a byelaw without any consensus having been achieved, inevitably one or more of the parties involved would feel that their views had not been supported.

“Potentially the bye-law scope may well be far more restrictive than what’s proposed by the Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve.”

The report to committee on September 5 sets out the costs and time required for a byelaw, running into tens of thousands of pounds.

Cllr Cowe added: “In any conflict there has to be a compromise if we are to reach a resolution, which can surely be achieved without resorting to law.

“What’s proposed is a perfectly reasonable and workable system if everyone gets behind it. But if the Council agrees to go down the byelaw route – and that’s a big ‘if’ as we’re not obliged to – that will inevitably involve a public inquiry at considerable cost to the council and taxpayer.”