A LOCAL environmental group claims wildfowlers are ignoring Moray Council regulations.
Since the arrival of geese at the end of September, members of Friends of Findhorn Bay (FFB) have reported incidents to the police including: shooting before 6am and after 11pm; shooting in close proximity to local houses; and dead and dying geese left un-retrieved.
FFB member Adrian Hutchins claims many wildfowlers are showing a total disregard to a voluntary agreement put in place by the local authority.
He said: “They are actively shooting on Mondays, the only other shot-free day apart from Sunday which was agreed on. On Monday, October 9 there were more than 10 shooters in hides in the restricted area in the south-east corner, shooting from 6.30am until after 10am and then again in the afternoon and evening.
“Police were again called out following an incident of shooting on a Sunday, which is illegal.
“Moray Council banned shooting on council land above the mean high water mark but this has not deterred the wildfowlers from shooting there.”
Signs to enforce a shooting ban have recently been erected on council-owned land at Findhorn Bay following a decision by the Economic Development and Services Committee in September to support a voluntary wildfowling permit scheme proposed by the Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve Management Committee.
The council also reaffirmed its position that shooting will not be permitted on council-owned land.
The law states that, in any event, shooting should not take place above the Mean High Water Mark.
Anyone shooting in this area is committing a criminal offence.
Support for Findhorn Bay Wildfowlers campaign founder Martin Gauld is unaware of any recent “crimes” having been committed by wildfowlers.
He said: “Any substantiated misconduct, which includes shooting close to houses at night-time or leaving breasted carcasses on the foreshore is unacceptable and contrary to the ethics and customs of wildfowling. “We do not represent any individual who does not share these long-established values.
“All local wildfowling bodies have objected to the terms of the Local Nature Reserve (LNR) scheme as far back as June. Until there is a well-supported permit scheme, the current one is incompetent and irrelevant.
“We are saddened by the lack of engagement and honest mediation from the LNR, Moray Council and British Association of Shooting and Conservation (BASC). They have refused to listen to local wildfowlers and gone ahead with a permit scheme on their own terms, rather than one we support.”
He added: “Regarding the council land and a ban on shooting, this is largely irrelevant to the right to lawful wildfowling on the Findhorn foreshore, which is what we promote and defend.
“It is wrong to shoot on any private or public land without lawful authority and we do not support any wildfowler or anti-shooting demonstrator who acts outwith the law.”
Director of BASC Scotland, Colin Shedden, also responded to claims that rules had been broken.
He said: “This is a voluntary permit system and shooting at these times would not otherwise constitute a criminal act. It is also not an offence to shoot on Mondays.
“Regarding shooters in hides in the restricted area, as long as they were shooting below the mean high water mark of an ordinary spring tide they would not have been committing an offence.”
Mr Shedden acknowledged that, if proven, certain offences may have taken place.
He said: “Shooting in close proximity to local houses could constitute either a breach of the peace or, under Common Law, reckless discharge.
“It is also both irresponsible and out with BASC’s Wildfowling Code of Practice to shoot indiscriminately and to not have access to a trained gundog or other means of retrieving shot birds.”
Local councillor George Alexander is being kept informed of the situation.
He said: “Moray Council is in full support of the voluntary scheme being trialled at the moment.
“I urge all stakeholders to follow the spirit of this voluntary scheme and the council will review its success at the end of the shooting season.
“A reasonable compromise can be devised to bring peace and harmony to life on the Findhorn Bay but it will require people to behave reasonably and respectfully towards each other.”