Following the publication of the results of the RSPB’s: UK hen harrier population suffers decline, according to latest figures , Head of Shooting at the Alliance, Liam Stokes, has made the following statement:

“The results from the 2016 hen harrier breeding survey make for grim reading. A significant reduction in territorial pairs have been shown in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – with only the Isle of Man maintaining a stable population.

“Where once the hen harrier was slowly recovering from its 19th century nadir, the recent trend is one of decline. Some have tried to attribute this decline simply to grouse shooting, but declines in Wales and Northern Ireland, where there is very little grouse shooting, show that the situation is not so easily explained. Natural England identify habitat loss, prey abundance, wildfire, inclement weather, illegal killings and predation as problems occurring to various degrees of intensity across of the hen harrier’s range. It is worth noting that hen harriers benefit from the habitat management and predator control undertaken by gamekeepers, as do more endangered species such as curlew and lapwing.

“However, the Countryside Alliance is not blind to the problem of illegal killing, and joins with the RSPB in condemning all instances of wildlife crime. We support Defra’s Hen Harrier Action Plan  HHAP in its entirety, a science-driven, proactive and positive effort to reverse the hen harrier’s decline in England. A key plank in the Plan is enforcement and surveillance, and this is where the Countryside Alliance would like to see efforts redoubled to stamp out the last vestiges of illegal killing. Until enforcement has been optimised we see no point in additional regulation, which would itself hinge on effective enforcement.

“An emphasis on enforcement must be matched with support for the rest of the HHAP, which looks to implement diversionary feeding, brood management and re-introductions. These actions combined, with a collaborative coalition behind them, have the potential to halt illegal killings and increase the population and the range of the hen harrier.”