The Inter-governmental Meeting on the Establishment of a European Goose Management Platform (EGMP) under the Auspices of AEWA took place from May 11-12, 2016 in Paris, France, at the kind invitation of the French Ministry of Environment, Energy and Sea, where The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC), as a member of the Technical Committee of AEWA, actively participated. The goal was to discuss the structure and mechanisms of the Platform as well as the commitment of range states.
The event was opened by Francois Mitteault, Director of Water and Biodiversity of the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Sea of France, who welcomed the planned initiative and underlined that France is currently discussing a new conservation act; therefore, along with the new legislation, the establishment of a national agency for biodiversity is foreseen. The increased number of debates shows that more knowledge is needed for better species management, which is one of the aims of the planned Platform.
Dr. Jacques Trouvilliez (Executive Secretary, AEWA) emphasized that international cooperation is key in any activity with migratory birds. AEWA is the legal framework for governments in cooperation with stakeholders. The establishment of such a platform would be a turning point in managing and sharing migratory bird populations. It would be a system to coordinate migratory bird management. It would need substantial long-term commitments from all range states, not only financially but logistically to implement the management actions at the national level.
Prof. Anthony Fox (Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University) presented a population status report highlighting some particular specie of migratory birds. Overall, there is an exponential increase in goose numbers. The most probable reason for this is a switch in goose foraging from wetlands to farmlands and cultivated grasslands. The monoculture crops provide the low-fiber, high protein, high water content food geese need and they are happy to shift there foraging areas from wetlands to farmlands. There is no evidence that wetland availability would be a limiting factor for this. Even migration patterns are likely to change within a few years due to this shift.
There are several other factors that limit goose populations such as predation and snow cover in breeding areas. The change in food quality also has an impact on their reproductive rate. If no changes are made in the management of geese species in general, the numbers of these migratory waterbirds might increase above 20 million by 2050! Geese flocks already cause lot of nuisance by invading city parks, golf courses, and other as they get tamer and tamer. Geese are exploiting resources which were unexpected.
Apart from the agricultural damage, several other issues are coming up because of the increasing number of geese, such as air strikes and health issues, but they are also destroying their own habitat simply by eating all of the vegetation, which even has an effect on soil degradation.
Goose populations in East Asia, however, are declining in China, for example, geese are persecuted and poisoned on farmland, which keeps them on wetlands.
The aim of the EGMP should not be simply to reduce populations, but to conserve them and to learn how to best cope with the challenges caused by increasingly large geese populations.
The EGMP is the ideal set up to gather annual population data to contribute to discussion and decision making regarding goose population management. The role of hunters is essential in gathering annual harvest data. Simple numbers are enough to assess reproductive rate and decide about hunting quota.
Dr. Fred A. Johnson (Research Wildlife Biologist, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey) reported about the North American approach, where Canada and the US share 3 different flyways, and management and hunting is done on a flyway basis by the “Flyway Councils”. Decisions are made at the federal level, but individual states can be more restrictive. In the case of snow geese, there was a need to introduce a so-called “conservation order”. Damage control was not provided by autumn hunting, so spring hunting, which has not been used since 1960s, and was re-introduced for this species as a last resort. The growth rate slowed, but didn’t stop.
It is important to have adaptive harvest management plans, with a circular process of monitoring, and assessment, and decision making. The US is doing it very intensely by, for example, annual plane counts on wintering grounds, sometimes also on breeding sites. Hunters get questionnaires to all act, or can send samples on a voluntary basis.
The cooperation is centrally coordinated, and the acquired data are accessible to everyone. The estimates help to create models which are used for the management plans, and the process starts over each year. It is a sequential decision making process. The adaptive harvest management approach can help the reduce uncertainties and challenges of partial observability, environmental variations (by years), partial controllability, and structure uncertainty.
It is very important to engage all relevant stakeholders from the beginning of the set-up phase of such adaptive harvest management plans. Objectives have to be set, decision alternatives have to be specified, and, of course, monitoring has to be planned. In the iterative phase, the decision is based on constant monitoring and assessment.
Prof. Jesper Madsen (Department of Bioscience Aarhus University/Waterbird Harvest Specialist Group of Wetlands International) introduced the first AHM approach for the Pink-footed goose, the “AEWA International Single Species Management Plan for the Pink-footed goose (Svalbard population)”. It includes site management and the reduction of crippling. The Pink-footed goose is a capital breeder, meaning that they arrive with eggs ready to be laid. The aim is to introduce the population to 60.000 birds (currently 90.000) a level, which will not affect the survival of the species, but will reduce damage to agriculture and tundra vegetation.
The CIC is glad to have been present at the start of this platform. The work on migratory birds is especially important for the CIC. At its last General Assembly in Brussels, there was a dedicated session on migratory birds with invited international experts. We thank Jacques Trouvilliez, Executive Secretary of the AEWA for providing the summary of the event.
AEWA Press release : CIC 63rd General Assembly: New Focus on Migratory Birds