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Nature reserve committee still want agreement

By Staff Reporter

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Findhorn Bay is loved by wildfowlers and wildlife campaigners.
Findhorn Bay is loved by wildfowlers and wildlife campaigners.

MORAY COUNCIL is withdrawing support for a wildfowling permit scheme at Findhorn Bay.

Mediation, a precursor to the voluntary permit scheme to be operated next season which the council agreed to last June, began last autumn but a final agreement could not be reached between all of the interested parties.

Chairman of Moray Council’s Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee, Councillor Graham Leadbitter, confirmed the discussions concluded without a satisfactory resolution.

He said: "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."

Just 23 permits were applied for during the last arrangement, out of an estimated 100 local wildfowlers.

The local authority will now step back until an agreement has been reached between the parties involved in the negotiations.

Forres Community Council member Alan Tissiman attended the last Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve Management Committee (FBLNR) meeting.

He said: "FBLNR chairman Roy Dennis is trying to help resolve the issue. We need a by-law that is agreeable by both sides.

"Roy believes it is possible to get this resolved but there is a spectrum of opinion on the subject."

Findhorn Bay is an internationally recognised site for overwintering birds, some of which are now red-listed under the British Trust for Ornithology’s Birds of Conservation Concern effort.

Wildfowling has long been practised on Findhorn Bay but internet-based communications and access has resulted in an increase in numbers visiting from outwith the area.

Local population growth and changing attitudes in society have led to protests and petitions, both for and against shooting.

Environmentalists Friends of Findhorn Bay want wildfowling to stop or at least be subject to increased regulation.

Member Danielle Quist confirmed the group was disappointed by the final meeting after months of negotiations.

She said: "They absorbed hours and hours of stakeholders' mostly unpaid time. There was significant headway and mutual agreement made, but long term issues remain.

"We hope that a way forward can be found, so that the time most stakeholders put in, and thousands spent by Moray 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.

"This is a problem which greatly impacts upon the local population (800 of which signed a petition to ban shooting completely) and sensitive wildlife in the reserve. It is not going to go away."

Scottish Association for Country Sports (SACS) director Alex Stoddart was saddened to hear of Moray Council's withdrawal from the mediation process but understands financial constraints forced their hand.

He said: "In our, wildfowling at Findhorn Bay is not an environmental issue but wildfowlers are conservationists at heart and in culture, and make one of the biggest contributions to conservationism in Scotland.

"We look forward to continuing discussions with partners around the table and I see no reason why these cannot continue despite the local authority's withdrawal.

"We are thankful for the support of the local community and are keen to work towards a resolution that will satisfy all of the interested parties and wildlife."

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