The Steering Group of Friends of Findhorn Bay recently had to make an important decision about the petition to ban shooting. It had been made clear to us by the Council that a ban on shooting would require a byelaw. The Council also told us that they would not be prepared to consider implementing a byelaw, as it may be a contentious process, entailing a process of consultation and a public enquiry, which is unaffordable at this stage. The Council said that it will consider a byelaw only if there is prior agreement among all parties on the terms of the byelaw. Even if the Council would investigate the possibility of a byelaw, it would not be put in place in time to have an effect on the coming shooting season.
Instead, the Council proposed a mediated meeting between the petitioners (i.e those in favour of a ban, and those who want to keep on shooting) in order to find a compromise as a point of departure. We agreed to take part in the negotiations, which were held on 8th June and we have reached a ‘compromise’ in the form of a voluntary shooting arrangement, which will be tested over the next season. The shooters present at the 8th June compromise talks assured us on a number of occasions during the 5-hour long meeting that they had the support of a large proportion of the shooting community to negotiate a compromise agreement.
It is important to see this ‘compromise’ in the right perspective:
(a) The ‘compromise’ does not represent our ideal. Our ideal is to have no shooting in the Findhorn Bay LNR.
(b) The ‘compromise’ is the only mechanism that can make an impact on this coming shooting season, which starts on 1st September. If we did not agree to an arrangement, there would be no intervention at all with regard to this shooting season.
(c) The ‘compromise’ is being regarded as a test that will run for one shooting season. At the end of the season it will be reviewed. Lessons learned from the experiment will be discussed at the review meeting and the relevant parties will try to find a sensible way forward. By agreeing to test the ‘compromise’ during this shooting season, Friends of Findhorn Bay does not waive its right to have the shooting ban petition formally considered by the Council at a later date. However, it enables us to explore all possibilities and, importantly, it enables us to remain involved in the process to address the issue of shooting in Findhorn Bay.
(d) The ‘compromise’ does not represent our view of a fair and workable compromise that could serve as a template for the future. In the negotiation process we did our best to reach an agreement that would be fairer and that would better reflect the identity of Findhorn Bay as a Nature Reserve, but the negotiations were inhibited by the fact that the shooters had to agree to any arrangement. The current ‘compromise’ is the absolute maximum change in the status quo that the shooters were prepared to accept. The ‘compromise’ does however entail a number of restrictions on shooting during the coming shooting season, which is a much better scenario than the status quo, in which there are no restrictions at all. The key restrictions are listed below and the full compromise document and a map showing restricted areas can be viewed here.
1. The no-shooting zone on the East side of the Bay is extended southwards to Line 1.
2. There will be no shooting on the East side of the Bay up to Line 2 after 10am.
3. The principle of ‘no-shooting days’ is accepted. In addition to the extended no shoot zone, on Mondays and Tuesdays there will be no shooting at any time in the South-East corner of the Bay between Points B and C.
(e) If our ideal cannot be realised in the foreseeable future and we have to settle on an interim arrangement that would improve the current situation substantially but also accommodate shooting in some form, such a compromise will have to be fairer and entail much more than the current ‘compromise’. It will probably be discussed at the review meeting with the Council at the end of the shooting season.
We have been asked to encourage our supporters to respect and implement this agreement during the 2016-17 shooting season. We have also been asked to request that our supporters “refrain from harassing or impeding shooting participants while those engage in their lawful sport”. Note that the agreement states that this term “should not be interpreted as any kind of assertion or acknowledgement that such harassment has, to date, taken place”.
We very much hope that our efforts over the last 9 months will lead to an improvement in the situation this season.
As part of Biodiversity Week we are going to have a guided walk in the lesser known South Eastern area of the Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve. Steven Hull will introduce us to the plants, animals, birds and insects that we may encounter in Findhorn Bay. We are leaving from the car park at Kinloss Church at 4pm and will return to the Church for tea and coffee afterwards. In case of poor weather, there will be a slide show in the Kinloss church hall of some of the species living in the Nature Reserve. Everyone is welcome. Please bring your wellies and, if possible, binoculars.
Two recent visits to the Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve by Richard Lochhead MSP on 21st January and John Finnie MSP on 5th February have helped to raise the profile of the campaign that is calling for a total ban on shooting in the Findhorn Bay Nature Reserve, with Richard Lochhead declaring the current situation “untenable” and John Finnie supporting a total ban.
There is still much work to be done to achieve a ban, as there are two hurdles to cross. The first is the fact that some key persons are stating that they prefer a byelaw that regulates the shooting rather than a ban. In other words, the way in which they intend to ‘regulate’ shooting will not address the core problems and the current situation will not change significantly. The second is the rolling out of endless excuses by Moray Councillors and civil servants who say that enacting a local byelaw is simple too costly and time consuming to pursue. These excuses have been in abundance since 2005! Budgetary constraints are an issue everywhere of course, but usually, where the political will exists to make something happen, it happens – so money is not really the core issue. This is why local residents need to make it clear that they will no longer tolerate shooting for sport in the Bay and that the Bay and the people living around it should be respected.
Here is a compilation of the current problems on the Bay, put together by a Kinloss resident who regularly walks in the Southern end of the Nature Reserve, often when the shooting is going on. If this catalogue of misfortune does not clearly show why a ban on shooting is the only sensible way forward, we are not sure what will…?
- Support a byelaw that bans shooting altogether,
- Support the continuation of shooting with a byelaw that allows for a shooting permit system, or
- Continue to do nothing at all.
Supporting the continuation of shooting with a shooting permit system could easily result in no change to the status quo. The usefulness or otherwise of such a permit system would depend entirely on where shooters are allowed to shoot, how many shooters are allowed at any given time, how many days per week they are allowed to shoot, and at what times of day. In the current proposal the possibility to restrict shooting to certain times and areas is ruled out and there will be no limit on the number of local shooters per day. Furthermore, with a shooting permit system there is no way to ensure the competence of any shooter who applies for a permit. Hence, there could easily be a continuation of the current incompetent shooting practices. These inexcusable activities are resulting in many injured and dying geese and goose carcasses being found around Findhorn Bay and in local neighbourhoods, not to mention a lot of noise disturbance to local people.
Anyone who has seen the 13th November proposal for a shooting permit system, submitted by the current Chair of the Findhorn Bay LNR Management Committee to Moray Council, will realise that his commitment is to support the minority wildfowling community, by maintaining the status quo as far as possible. This is not going to be acceptable to the non-shooting majority of users of the Nature Reserve, and it certainly will not be acceptable to the 800+ IV36 residents who signed the petition demanding a total ban on shooting!
Must a minority ‘sport’ be tolerated in a Nature Reserve, when it has such a negative impact on other potential Nature Reserve users and on the wildlife that lives there, purely because it has been happening for generations? This is one of the arguments levelled by the pro-shooters, and even by some leaders, but it is a flawed argument of course. We could cite many things that were done for generations, but which are outlawed today. As an example, it would be inconceivable for a right-thinking person to say that domestic violence should be tolerated simply because it has been ‘practiced for generations’.
We hope and trust that our local Councillors will do the right thing for Findhorn Bay.