A new three year pilot project to manage the greylag goose population of Lewis and Harris is due to begin. The initiative sees funding of a co-ordinated shooting effort to allow islanders to control geese.
The scheme’s aim is to reduce agricultural damage seen by crofters and farmers while keeping a sustainable goose population. It is being trialled in Scotland with the support of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and is guided by the National Goose Management Review Group (NGMRG). Similar projects are underway on Uist, Coll and Tiree, and Orkney. These have growing populations of greylag geese which cause damage to silage and other crops.
The aim is a sustainably managed goose population which generates income for local people. Every landowner, farmer and township clerk in Lewis and Harris has been asked in writing for their permission to access their ground for shooting. Access has been permitted across most of the area in question.
Licensed shooting will take place with experienced local guns in spring and autumn to reduce the birds’ impact on farming while preserving the species’ conservation interest. Geese taken as part of the pilot project will be recorded and their numbers monitored in spring and autumn.
Stornoway-based Roddy MacMinn of SNH confirmed: “It is clear that the greylag goose population on Lewis and Harris has increased significantly in recent years. We are responding to a request from the local goose management group to help them manage that goose population to a more sustainable level.
“The work will be undertaken by experienced volunteer shooters following established best practice methods, and overseen by staff within Scottish Agricultural College. Our initial target is for an additional 2200 geese to be shot this year as we aim to deliver a significant population reduction by 2017.”
The resident greylag goose population in Lewis and Harris has increased in recent years. The latest count in February 2013 recorded 5850 birds - a 45% increase since February 2010 when 4,029 were recorded.
The project will also trial the sale of goose meat under licence. Trained hunters and hotels and restaurants will be licenced to sell the meat generated by the pilot. Named butchers and retail premises may also be licenced if they apply to SNH.
This will encourage sustainable use of the carcasses, give financial benefit and supply a healthy, protein rich and locally sourced food for islanders. Recipes using wild goose meat are available on the Scotland’s Natural Larder website.
In Lewis and Harris the project has been developed and managed in conjunction with the Local Goose Management Group which includes representatives from SGRPID, CnES, the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) and crofters, farmers, and landowners. This initiative has the support of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) who will be working closely with all those involved in this new form of adaptive management control.