No agreement reached in Findhorn wildfowling talks

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Moray Council is withdrawing its support in facilitating a permit scheme for wildfowling in Findhorn Bay.

Mediation, which the council agreed to in June last year (as reported by insideMORAY, began in autumn 2018.

A statement released by Moray Council last week stated that: “although significant progress was made, a final agreement could not be reached between all interested parties. It was expected that, if negotiations were successful, it would be the precursor to a further voluntary permit scheme being operated in the next season at the local nature reserve.

“However now the Council will step back until an agreement has been reached between the parties involved in the negotiations, which came after a poor uptake of voluntary permits in the 2017/18 season. Just 23 permits were applied for, out of an estimated 100 local wildfowlers.”

Chair of Moray Council’s Economic Development & Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Graham Leadbitter, said: “Regrettably mediation has concluded without any satisfactory resolution. As a council we have invested thousands of pounds in this process to date, but as this latest attempt has been unsuccessful we are faced with no other financially-viable alternative. We will withdraw our support in facilitating a permit scheme and won’t be in a position to re-engage until a way forward can be agreed.

“I would like to thank all involved for their co-operation so far, but urge them to continue to work towards a compromise.”

Following the final meeting with the Council, the Friends of Findhorn Bay made the following statement: “Friends of Findhorn Bay are deeply disappointed by the results of today’s meeting, after months of negotiations, which absorbed hours and hours of stakeholders’ mostly unpaid time. There was significant headway and mutual agreement made.

“We hope that a way forward can be found, so that the time stakeholders put in, and money spent by the Council, will not have been wasted. We appreciate the Council’s determined effort to solve this ongoing problem to date, but believe they must still take responsibility, as this is a problem which greatly impacts upon the local population and wildlife in the reserve. It is not going to go away.”

Lisa Mead, Lead Petitioner for the petition calling for a wildfowling ban submitted to Moray Council in December 2015, commenting in a personal capacity, put it a little stronger: “The Council’s tactic of trying to broker voluntary shooting restrictions by seeking agreement between shooters, conservationists and local residents was flawed from the start.

“The four shooting groups involved in the mediation took full advantage of the fact that they could simply continue to argue amongst themselves and never agree on the best way forward, as a way to avoid committing to any shooting restrictions. They did this not once but three times, at great financial expense to Moray Council and at the practical expense of local people’s wellbeing, because the shooting disturbance, the plastic littering and the dog fouling in our Local Nature Reserve continues.

“Unacceptable behaviour of this kind requires a legal response, not ‘voluntary arrangements’. Moray Council should have shown proper leadership from the beginning, by promoting a legally enforceable byelaw, rather than continually making excuses for not doing that.”