A £10,000 wild goose management scheme, designed to help cover the cost of farmland damaged by migrating geese, is about to be renewed for 2018.
The annual payment applies to the Loch of Strathbeg Special Protection Area, near Crimond in Aberdeenshire, where geese numbers can reach 50,000 as they head between breeding grounds in Iceland and Scotland.
“We’re grateful to the scheme participants for their help in both conserving this internationally important species and the success of the scheme over the years,” said Russell Hooper from Scottish Natural Heritage’s Tayside & Grampian office, speaking on behalf of the Local Goose Management Group.
“There has been a really good level of participation by local farmers, and last year the proportion of the roost supported by the scheme was the highest since 2012.
“We encourage all landowners within the scheme boundary to apply to take part in the scheme.”
Despite the financial value of the 2018 programme, the cost burden on local farmers remains high with one annual ‘goose host’ complaining to the Press & Journal that he would much rather his gazing land was left for his sheep to enjoy than for up to 20,000 geese at a time.
He also said they hit his farm in both the spring and autumn and do enormous damage on each visit.
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Reacting to the 50,000 goose figure linked to the new scheme, NFU Scotland policy manager Andrew Midgely said: “The fact that goose numbers have increased massively will come as no surprise to our members, many of whom are tearing their hair out trying to deal with the impact on their farming businesses.
“On Islay for example, damage by barnacle geese is continuing at a level which causes serious agricultural damage.
“The island’s goose management strategy clearly states that the on-going high levels of damage threaten the viability of farming on Islay, which underpins economic and social viability as well as the provision of wider biodiversity benefits.
“With growing goose numbers across many parts of Scotland, such conflicts are only going to increase.”
NFU Scotland wants to see funding for existing goose management safeguarded, alongside the provision of additional funding for new goose management on Tiree and the Western Isles, as well as the full delivery of the Islay Sustainable Goose Management Strategy.