Defra has concluded its review into how gamebird releases on or near European protected sites are managed.
The review looked at areas including the number of gamebirds released and their impact on protected sites, the consenting process, and whether further safeguards could be provided to protect sites.
The review has now concluded and found that the negative effects of gamebird releases on protected sites tend to be localised and that there are minimal or no effects beyond 500m from the point of release. It also highlighted a need to gain a better understanding of how any impacts - particularly local ones - might be mitigated.
In response to a pre-action protocol letter from Wild Justice in July 2019, last September Defra accepted that in principle the annual release of non-native gamebirds on, or affecting, Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) is capable of constituting a “plan or project” requiring appropriate assessment within the meaning of the Habitats Directive.
While not accepting the argument that current laws do not provide for appropriate assessment in such cases, Defra undertook a review to consider the legislative arrangements around the relevant activities and whether there are ways in which their effectiveness could be improved.
Defra will continue to consult with industry early in order to minimise any disruption.