Above: UK numbers of Svalbard barnacle geese have risen from possibly just 100s in the 1940s to 42,000 today. Norway’s request for the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention to accept a down-listing of the barnacle goose from the Bern Convention’s Appendix II to Appendix III was not accepted at a meeting at the end of November. Photo: WWT


NORWAY’S BID FOR the European Union (EU) to downgrade the protection of the barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis) has fallen flat, says the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) who called out the proposal last month.

Under the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, of which both Britain and the EU are signatories, the species is afforded special protection across Europe. The current listing allows for limited culls where there is significant risk to farmers’ crops or to air safety, plus sustainable shoots as species population ebbs and flows.

But a recent proposal from Norway to move the species from Strictly Protected to Protected would make it widely legal to kill barnacle geese.

The WWT voiced its concerns over the proposal, as conservation efforts have succeeded in raising UK numbers – which had fallen to just hundreds in the 1940s – back to tens of thousands.

The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) identifies two distinct UK wintering populations of barnacle: those from Norway’s Svalbard archipelago winter in Solway Firth, Lindisfarne and Loch of Strathbeg; those from Greenland chiefly in the Western Isles. There is also an increasing naturalised UK population.

The WWT called Norway’s proposal “a knee-jerk reaction” for which the consequences for the geese that visit the UK are not known.

However, the proposal was not accepted when put to the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention on November 27 in Strasbourg, France.

The WWT, which provided the first scientific research to make the case for the species’ legal protection – and has given the Svalbard population a safe wintering haven at its Caerlaverock Wetland Centre for almost 50 years – believes the species’ current listing is correct.

James Robinson, the WWT’s director of conservation, said: “We’re pleased to see the future of barnacle geese assured, for now, and that decades of conservation work won’t be thrown away.

“We believe good evidence helps to prevent bad decisions. WWT’s research and monitoring suggested all along that the current protections for barnacle geese are working, and we look forward to helping with creation of new, evidence-based management plans for these birds.”

For more news from Cage & Aviary Birds, click here.