The NARGC Seminar on The Open Seasons Order and Sustainable Hunting

When I received the invitation to attend the National Association of Regional Game Councils (NARGC) seminar on the Open Seasons Order and Sustainable Hunting, I accepted without hesitation. The seminar featured an outstanding lineup of guests and speakers from Ireland and mainland Europe. The timing of the seminar was not coincidental. Ireland is obligated to comply with the European Union’s Birds Directive, and the latest data on the number of species under conservation threat suggests that some species may be removed from the Open Seasons Order in the near future. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is working on potential changes related to fulfilling these obligations. Furthermore, the Irish government has launched a public consultation on deer management in Ireland, coordinated by the Deer Management Strategy Group. This suggests that some alterations to deer hunting regulations are also likely.

I was pleased to see Malcolm Noonan, a Green Party politician and current Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, among the high-profile guests. Mr Noonan, who is responsible for the NPWS, emphasised in his address that new regulations must be based on scientific evidence and involve the collaboration of all interested parties. I was delighted to hear him acknowledge the NARGC as a key partner and recognise the importance of their conservation programs. How much of that was just courtesy and how much was sincere remains to be seen, but I have no reason to doubt his words at present.

The main part of the seminar was opened by Dr David Scallan, Secretary General of the European Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FACE). David was previously our guest on my podcast so you should listen to that episode to learn more about FACE. From his presentation, we learned about regulations applied on the EU level and saw some numbers showcasing the conservation of particular species of huntable birds. Currently, in the EU there are over 500 hunting-related conservation projects. My main takeaway, however, was the commitment of FACE to oppose ongoing attempts in the EU parliament to weaken proposed measures for nature restoration in Europe. David’s presentation concluded by showing us the latest data on high-ranking pressures on nature. It turns out that hunting is responsible for less than 1% of such pressures.

Following that, we were treated to a series of presentations by guests from Denmark and Finland. Dr Thomas Kjær Christensen from the Institute of Ecoscience in Denmark gave a presentation on how Denmark collects data about birds, both wing surveys and bag returns, and how they are used to inform decisions about bag limits and the timing of open season for particular species of birds. Similar presentations were delivered by Mikko Alhainen, Senior Planning Officer at the Finnish Wildlife Agency and by Jarkko Nurmi, Director of Sustainable Wildlife Management at the Finnish Wildlife Agency. These presentations were quite heavy with a lot of stats, graphs and diagrams. Once again I was pleased to see minister Noonan paying close attention to the details of some of the best wildlife management techniques in Europe. We need such sophisticated and robust practices in Ireland too, to secure a future for wildlife and hunting.

The key message of the seminar was the will and need for cooperation between the NARGC, the biggest conservation organisation in Ireland, and the NPWS. The NARGC needs to work with the NPWS on new regulations, have a seat at the table and represent Irish hunters in the process of decision-making. I was encouraged by the willingness to cooperate expressed by both NARGC Chairman John Butler in his opening remarks and Minister Noonan. Seminars like this should be the mainstay of all modern hunting organisations. I’m a vocal critic of some hunting organisations and their inability to recognize that times are changing, requiring them to evolve in order for hunting to be enjoyed by future generations. Therefore, I want to applaud this seminar as a definite step in the right direction by the NARGC. As one of the NARGC members commented during the Q&A session, this was the most progressive step in the last 25 years. Maybe a little exaggeration, but not much!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s