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Defra publishes modified general licence for gamebird releasing

Defra has today issued a modified General Licence 45 (GL45 (modified)) for the release of common pheasants and red-legged partridges on specified Special Protection Areas (SPAs) or within their 500-metre buffer zones in England. GL45 (modified) replaces the GL45 which was released on 22 March 2024, and it reflects the subsequent reduction in avian influenza (AI) risk level in wild birds from medium, when that GL45 was initially published, to low. The modified GL45 is valid in England from 7 June 2024 to 1 February 2025.

When GL45 was originally published, it applied to the release of both common pheasant and red-legged partridge on 29 of the 31 SPAs that were covered by an Individual Licence last year, as well as for the Wash SPA in the case of releasing red-legged partridge. GL45 (modified) now covers releases on 85 SPAs and their 500m buffer zones, and the specific conditions that had applied to the Peak District Moors SPA and The Wash SPA have now been removed. The details of these SPAs are at Annex A to the Licence. A specific condition for Northumberland Marines SPA has however been added, which prevents the keeping and releasing of common pheasants and red-legged partridges on the SPA or its 500 buffer zone before 7 September 2024.

There is no requirement for shoots to apply or register to use the modified GL45, but its conditions must be met. A number of changes have been made to these, and they are the addition of guidance on licences to release gamebirds, and the requirement to report release activity using a new linked online reporting form. In condition 4 of the Licence, when testing red-legged partridge, mixing has also now been defined as beak-beak contact.

All those planning gamebird releases on a SPA are encouraged to review GL45 (modified). Defra has also updated its Frequently Asked Questions for the releasing of gamebirds, a copy of which can be read here.

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