Pink-footed Geese Showing The Way

The most concrete tool for hunting from the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) has been the formalisation of the Pink-footed Goose Adaptive Management Plan, which was adopted at the MOP5.

This was followed by the first meeting on the implementation of the AEWA International Species Management Plan (ISMP) for the Svalbard population of the Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus), held in Svalbard in August (4-8).

24 participants convened from the national delegations from the 4 range states (Belgium, Denmark, Norway and The Netherlands), representatives from government authorities along with international experts and invited national hunting and conservation organisations.

The observers included FACE’s Angus Middleton, along with Niels Henrik Simonsen and Niels‐Erik Jørgensen from the Danish Hunters’ Association. Other observers came from Wetlands International, the Danish Ornithological Society as well as some individual specialists.

Over the past decades the Svalbard population of the Pink-footed Goose has increased considerably and reached an estimated population size of 69,000 individuals. But the increasing population of the Pink-footed Goose has progressively brought them into conflict with agricultural interests. Furthermore, there is concern about degradation of vulnerable tundra vegetation in Svalbard due to increasing goose grazing pressure.

The main focus of the meeting was to consider measures on how to reduce these conflicts whilst maintaining the population at a favourable conservation status. To achieve an adaptive management of the Pink-footed Goose, different harvest management strategies, the latest information on population growth and hunting practices were discussed and evaluated by meeting participants. Other meeting topics included the definition of the structure and role of the Pink-footed Goose International Working Group as well as funding and coordination aspects.

Hunting was well accepted as a management component, with Norway and Denmark looking into optimising hunting strategies without objection from The Netherlands & Belgium (where the species is protected). The ideas being put forward, which include careful management of zones, hunting times and opportunities, offer interesting models that could be adapted for other situations.

This management plan and the way in which it has been developed offers a very useful starting point for further management plans, in relation to AEWA these could include Baltic Sea-Ducks (mainly Anus acuta & Melanitta fusca),  Taiga Bean Goose (Anser fabalis fabalis) and Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) all of which are priority species for International Species Management Plans under AEWA.