The decision made this week by the UK and Welsh governments to end the hunting of Greenland White-fronted Geese in England and Wales has been welcomed by conservation charities. Greenland White-fronted Geese breed along the coastal fringe of west Greenland and migrate south through Iceland to winter exclusively in Britain and Ireland, but annual counts made at the wintering sites have shown a rapid decline in the population since the early 2000s.
Wales and England were the only countries left on the goose’s migration route that still allowed them be hunted during the open season (a ban is already in place in Greenland, Iceland, Scotland and throughout Ireland); although, Wildfowlers in the area of the Dyfi Estuary have been helping to protect Wales’ one remaining flock of Greenland Whitefronts through a voluntary moratorium on shooting them.
The Greenland White-fronted Goose Study (GWGS) coordinates population counts and monitors the breeding success of this species, with support from the Goose & Swan Monitoring Programme. Annual monitoring has shown that the size of the population wintering in Britain and Ireland has fallen by almost a half since the turn of the century, with numbers declining from c. 35,700 in 1999 to a low of c. 18,900 in 2016. Results of the latest census have recently been published by GWGS, and show that although the number of individuals counted during spring 2018 was down very slightly compared with the previous year (20,556 in spring 2017), the population remain above 20,000 in 2018, which is very encouraging to see. The full report can be downloaded here.
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