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Defra gives an update on the Gamebird Licensing Process for SPAs in 2024

Defra, as the 2024 licensing authority, has this week published a ‘fact sheet’ with reference to the process for gamebird release licensing for 2024 in Special Protection Areas (SPAs), or within 500m of SPAs. The Defra fact sheet can be viewed here. The gamebirds, whose release is controlled by this licensing, are common pheasant and red-legged partridge. 

As shoots are now beginning to plan for the 2024 / 2025 season, it is vitally important that they read carefully and stay up to date with gamebird release licensing announcements. Although the much needed certainty, which shoots require to function sustainably, disappointingly cannot yet be given, Defra state that their approach to 2024 gamebird release licensing in / within 500m of SPAs will be confirmed before the end of February 2024, using the most up-to-date evidence available and led by Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser. It is important to note that Avian Influenza will remain a key consideration for gamebird licensing on SPAs in 2024.  

The points which Defra has sought to emphasise in their fact sheet are that: 

  • No shoot, whether a licence was granted or refused in the 2023 season, should assume that they will have the same outcome in the 2024 season.  
  • When placing orders with game farms, shoots that wish to release gamebirds in SPAs which are also classified as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) should consider the maximum released gamebird concentrations allowed under GL43. GL43 is the general licence for the release of gamebirds inside or within 500m of SACs, with threshold concentrations of 700 birds/ha within the SAC and 1000 birds/ha in the 500m buffer zone. 

A welcomed development announced in the fact sheet is that Defra is exploring the suitability of issuing SPA-specific general licences for gamebird release. If accepted, this would mean that, if an SPA is considered suitable, a general licence with conditions specific to that SPA would be issued, whereas if an SPA is considered unsuitable for a general licence, then the current method of individual licensing would be required.  

The Alliance along with other Aim to Sustain partners have been actively engaged with Defra in stakeholder meetings regarding gamebird release licensing, and progress has been made. We will continue to help and encourage Defra to issue timely, fair and evidence-based licensing for the 2024 season and beyond. It is important that we work together to bolster the security of the shooting sector. 

Anyone with queries regarding the 2024 licensing of gamebird release can email Defra at


Read the Defra fact sheet

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