Defra has published its long-awaited General Licence for gamebird releasing on European Protected Sites. Click the link below to read more about what the general licence means for you and what needs to be done to comply.

Defra has published its long-awaited General Licence for gamebird releasing on European Protected Sites. This system has temporarily been introduced because of a legal challenge against the releasing of game birds on these sites by Wild Justice in 2020.

The releasing of pheasants and red-legged partridges in EU protected sites, and within a 500m buffer around them, will be licensed for an interim period of four years whilst Defra and Natural England undertake work to assess impacts of gamebird management on individual sites.

During that time, release in these areas will only be possible under licence, either by a general licence that you do not need to apply for or an individual licence. Conditions will apply to limit release densities below the threshold at which there is any possible risk of damage.

European protected sites are:

  • Special areas of conservation (SAC)
  • Special protection areas (SPA)
  • Ramsar wetland
  • Potential SPA, possible SAC or proposed Ramsar wetland

For pheasants, the licence conditions stipulate that the density of pheasants released within a European site must be no more than 700 birds per hectare of release pen, or lower if required by a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) consent.

For partridges, the density of red-legged partridges released within a European site must be no more than 700 birds per hectare of land they inhabit, or lower if required by a SSSI consent. You must site red-legged partridge release pens in cover crops on arable land or on improved grassland within European sites.

Within a 500m buffer surrounding European sites, the density of pheasants released within the 500m buffer zone must be no more than 1,000 birds per hectare of the release pen. For red-legged partridges, the density released within the 500m buffer zone must be no more than 1,000 birds per hectare of land they inhabit.

All shoot managers releasing gamebirds on European sites and in the surrounding buffer will need to provide Defra and Natural England with details on the total number and species of gamebird released within a European site and the buffer along with the location.

Details of any relevant SSSI consent will also need to be provided, this is a document that you should already have. An online reporting form will be available from 31st May 2021. For shoots that cannot work within the conditions of the General Licence, an Individual Licensing regime administered by Natural England, will be available to apply for to operate outside the conditions of the General Licence. If you can operate within the parameters of the release densities and your current SSSI agreement, then you can operate under the General Licence and will not have to apply for an individual licence. You will still have to report your release numbers and current agreement via the online portal.

NGO members can have free help and advice with this if needed, just contact them via info@nationalgamekeepers.org.uk

NGO
The National Gamekeepers Organisation