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.
If you have read any of our previous blogs, you will know that Friends of Findhorn Bay is advocating for a ban on shooting in the Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve. There has been some speculation locally as to who signed the formal written petition that was submitted to Moray Council by Friends of Findhorn Bay on 21st December 2015. The petition calls on Moray Council to end the shooting of geese and ducks in the Nature Reserve for a number of stated reasons.
As a result of this speculation, we decided to look a little more closely at the 800+ signatures on the shooting ban petition signature lists, to see where local support for a ban is coming from in the Moray Council Ward 8 (Forres) area. We restricted signature collection to Ward 8 specifically, because it covers the area most affected by the shooting. The results of our analysis are set out below.
The 2011 Census records 748 residents of Kinloss village and 776 residents of Findhorn aged 16 and over. This is a total of 1524 adult residents in Findhorn and Kinloss – the villages located closest to Findhorn Bay and hence the people most disturbed by the shooting. Note that due to the formalities of the Moray Council petition process we were only able to collect signatures of residents who are actually registered to vote in this area.
Here is the breakdown of petition signature locations and numbers who signed:
A total of 811 signatures were gathered in Moray Council Ward 8 (Forres) between 15 November and 20 December 2015
Location No. of Signatures
Kinloss Village 140
Kinloss Southside 114 Total Kinloss: 254 signatures (34% of adult population)
Findhorn Village 101
The Park, Findhorn 113 Total Findhorn: 214 signatures (28% of adult population)
Others Nr Bay 18 (eg Netherton, Broom of Moy, Dyke)
Others in Ward 8 58
So in terms of the percentage of voting residents living closest to Findhorn Bay who are in favour of a total ban on shooting in the Nature Reserve, this is approximately 34% of the population of Kinloss and 28% of the population of Findhorn. Around 12 people collected signatures, either going door to door or passing the petition around at various local events. We did not manage to go to every household by any means, but of the houses we did visit, we found that around 90% of the people we asked were in favour of a ban on shooting in the Findhorn Bay LNR.
I personally asked about 25 individuals in Findhorn village and only 2 people did not want to sign the petition – in other words 92% signed. Another Friends of Findhorn Bay member and long-term local resident of 30+ years, who collected many signatures in Kinloss, reported “I must have spoken to over 150 people about the petition. I could count on two hands the number of people who have said “no” to signing, and on one hand the number who have spoken up for the shooters. Many people feel very passionate about this issue“. So his “signature collection success rate” was 90%.
This is a significant number of local people in favour of a ban, by any elected official’s reckoning. My sense from these numbers is that if Moray Council tries to ignore or make light of this issue, the voice in favour of a ban is only going to get stronger and more active.
And it is important to note – this movement calling for a ban covers a wide cross section of the public, from all walks of life and of all ages. This is not a “fringe” movement. It is a large group of people who would like to see Moray Council honouring the purpose for which the Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve was originally set up – to be a place “where people can come to experience, enjoy, learn about and get involved with nature… a Local Nature Reserve should be a signal to the public that this is somewhere to experience nature” (extract from SNH Report No 174 on Local Nature Reserves). At the moment, this is not possible for almost half the year, due to the presence of people shooting geese and ducks. See this short video of the shooting to get a sense of what is happening on a regular basis in the South Eastern corner of Findhorn Bay during the 6 month shooting season.
The presence of men with shotguns, and their often antisocial and disrespectful behaviour so close to residential areas acts as a strong deterrent for anyone else who might wish to enjoy the natural beauty of Findhorn Bay. What Friends of Findhorn Bay would dearly love to see throughout the year is Findhorn Bay as a place where people can experience the wonders of nature, in a peaceful, enjoyable and “leave no trace” way.
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.
With 5 weeks to go before Moray Council considers the petition to ban shooting on Findhorn Bay, it is really important that we continue to press the point that shooting is a totally unacceptable activity in a designated Nature Reserve, especially near to the well-populated residential area of Kinloss.
Over 800 people living in the IV36 area of Moray signed the shooting ban petition late last year and it will be considered by the Economic Development & Infrastructure Services Committee at Moray Council on 8th March.
The main arguments in favour of a ban are available to view in the Petition Submission.
Meanwhile, our latest Friends of Findhorn Bay Newsletter provides contact details of the relevant Moray Councillors and local MSP, Richard Lochhead, so that you can contact them easily and quickly.
We need your help to ensure that the voice for peace on Findhorn Bay is heard loud and clear!
The newly established citizens’ group, Friends of Findhorn Bay, called a public meeting in Kinloss on 14th December to share their vision for the Bay as a local, national and international resource. There was an overwhelming public response with an attendance of over 120 local residents from Kinloss, Findhorn, Forres and surrounding areas. The group, which has a fast growing membership, aimed to bring all interested parties together to discuss and explore the vision and aims of the group and the best way forward for the Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve.
So far 800 signatures of residents of Kinloss, Findhorn and Forres have been collected in just 29 days on a paper petition that is calling for a total ban on shooting in the Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve. At the public meeting, lead petitioner, Lisa Mead, highlighted the strength of public feeling that had been articulated during the collection of signatures.
A local piper welcomed the meeting attendees on arrival to a varied and pleasant evening of talks, film footage, poetry and open question time. A presentation by local ornithologist Richard Somers Cocks gave an indication of the variety and rarity of the wildlife of the Bay. He noted that a number of bird species that visit or inhabit Findhorn Bay are recorded as ’Near Threatened’ on the IUCN Red List, including the Long-Tailed Duck, Curlew Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwit and the Knot. An enlightening presentation was given as to the relevant legislation that protects the Bay, at least in theory, and to the fact that Findhorn Bay is not only designated as a Local Nature Reserve, but also as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and as a RAMSAR site.
It was outlined that under Criterion 5 of the RAMSAR Sites Criteria, Findhorn Bay has international importance for bird migration, which could also be of value in terms of sensitive ecotourism. Both individual bird species and habitats are also protected under the EU Natura 2000 directive. Many wintering species, including waders, need the South East corner of the Bay to feed and roost. Gelda MacGregor, a Steering Group member of Friends of Findhorn Bay, noted in her talk that the RSPB rated it as “one of the best places for wildlife in the UK”. The RAMSAR site designation report states that “in the educational use of the Findhorn Bay its potential value is high”.
Some evocative film footage of the beauty of the Bay and the migrating geese was shown by Rev. Louis Bezuidenhout. Included was some disturbing footage of the shooting of Pink Footed geese, with one falling onto the B9011 Findhorn Bay Road at Kinloss. It narrowly missed being hit by a bus and fell close to where school children wait at the bus stop. The fallen goose staggered along to a ditch, repeatedly trying to fly, but failing. Other local residents have also related discoveries of injured birds dying a painful death.
Following the presentations there were animated discussions, with points of view expressed by a diverse audience, which included several local wildfowlers. All who shared expressed heartfelt interest in and concern for the future of the Bay. Frustrated residents of Kinloss and Findhorn complained of waking up to the sound of shotgun fire for almost six months of the year and of effectively being unable to access the Nature Reserve to walk or birdwatch when the shooters are present, which is often during the morning, daytime and evening.
The audience were made aware that Friends of Findhorn Bay is now open for membership and has a website, www.findhornbay.scot, where further information can be found and also a Facebook Group – Findhorn Bay Goose Watch – which can be joined. This Facebook Group has been set up primarily so that people with concerns about shooting on the Bay or incidents to report can have their voices heard.
For further information please email: email@example.com