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Towards sustainable management of huntable migratory waterbirds in Europe

January 1, 2015

The EU Birds Directive and the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement provide an adequate legal framework for sustainable management of migratory waterbird populations. The main shortcoming of both instruments is that it leaves harvest decisions of a shared resource to individual Member States and Contracting Parties without providing a shared information base and mechanism to assess the impact of harvest and coordinate actions in relation to mutually agreed objectives.

A recent update of the conservation status of waterbirds in the EU shows that almost half of the populations of species listed on Annex II of the Birds Directive have a declining short-term trend and over half of them are listed in Columns A and B of AEWA. This implies that their hunting could either only continue under the framework of an adaptive harvest management plan or their hunting should be regulated with the view of restoring them in favourable conservation status.

We argue that a structured approach to decision-making (such as adaptive management) is needed, supported with adequate organisational structures at flyway scale. We review the experience with such an approach in North America and assess the applicability of a similar approach in the European context. We show there is no technical reason why adaptive harvest management could be not applied in the EU or even AEWA context.

We demonstrate that an informed approach to setting allowable harvests does not require detailed demographic information. Essential to the process, however, are estimates of either the observed growth rate from a monitoring program or the growth rate expected under ideal conditions. In addition, periodic estimates of population size are needed, as well as either empirical information or reasonable assumptions about the form of density dependence. We show that such information exists for many populations, but improvements are needed to improve geographic coverage, reliability and timely data availability.

We highlight the importance of the International Waterbird Census and specialised goose and seaduck monitoring in estimating population sizes and observed growth rate of the populations. We encourage further investments into the development of these schemes. We also recognise the importance of migration studies to improve our understanding of delineations of populations. We also highlight that, with a few exceptions, the available data does not allow the European Commission, competent authorities of the Members States or other AEWA Contracting Parties to assess levels of harvest and their sustainability and, therefore, regulate hunting accordingly. Therefore, we recommend that annual reporting on 2 harvest levels of waterbird populations would be gradually introduced in the EU and the AEWA region. We propose that future AEWA and EU action plans and management plans for Annex II species should apply the principles of adaptive harvest management framework and make provisions for setting up adequate monitoring and information management systems and organisational structures to manage the decision-making process. We suggest that internationally coordinated management structures are established to facilitate dialogue, learning and communication between stakeholders with different interests and cultural backgrounds.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Towards sustainable management of huntable migratory waterbirds in Europe
Authors Jesper Madsen, Matthieu Guillemain, Szabolcs Nagy, Pierre Defos du Rau, Jean-Yves Mondain-Monval, Cy Griffin, James Henty Williams, Nils Bunnefeld, Alexandre Czajkowski, Richard Hearn, Andreas Grauer, Mikko Alhainen, Angus Middleton, Fred A. Johnson
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Index ID 70148542
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southeast Ecological Science Center