Police to target illegal shot

COASTAL areas popular with wildfowlers will be targeted as part of a police operation to highlight offences relating to the use of lead shot.

Depending on the species of bird, wildfowling, where certain duck, geese and wading birds may be lawfully shot, takes place between September 1 and February 20. The sport is a public right across most of Scotland below the mean high water mark, but the extensive use of lead shot in coastal and inland wetland areas has resulted in some habitats being poisoned as well as the bird species that depend upon them.

As part of Operation Equinox, Grampian Police will visit popular shooting areas as far south as the North Esk to highlight the problem to shooters.

In 2005 the use of lead shot over wetlands was banned to prevent further poisoning incidents, and wildfowlers are now required to use steel and tungsten based alternatives if shooting in these areas.

A number of recent incidents reported to Grampian police, however, indicate that some individuals are continuing to use lead shot over wetland habitats in the region.

Andy Turner, the force’s wildlife crime education officer, said: “The majority of wildfowlers have a good knowledge of the legislation under which they are operating and carry out their sport in a safe and responsible manner.

“However there have been a number of reported incidents where it is strongly suspected that some individuals are continuing to use lead shot, in addition to other offences relating to the use of electronic calling devices to lure birds and shooting of non-target species.

“Grampian Police Wildlife Crime Unit has arranged for information boards to be erected at key wildfowling sites across the Force area, from Findhorn Bay in the north to the river North Esk in the south.

“In addition we will be taking the opportunity to speak with wildfowlers over the coming months about the legislation under which they operate.”

Colin Shedden, director of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) in Scotland, said that anyone taking part in the sport should familiarise themselves with the legislation.

He said: “All coastal wildfowlers and others shooting on or over inland wetlands, such as flight ponds, should be aware of the legislation that prohibits the use of lead shot. We are pleased that there is widespread adherence to this legislation and that, since 2005, there have been no convictions.

“However, we support Grampian Police in this initiative and following up of reports of possible offences.”

A practical guide to lead shot legislation can be found on the BASC website at http://www.basc.org.uk/en/utilities/document-summary.cfm/docid/D5C9615C-C762-40F1-8AD9E3509B0B46E2.