Hunters Have a Major Role in the Conservation of Wetlands
Hunters are not only users but also eager conservationists of wetlands. From restoration programmes, through the control of predators, to fundraising, hunters’ role is a key in the conservation of wetlands.
Every year, 2 February marks the World Wetland Day, the international awareness day for the protection of wetlands as stated in the Ramsar “Convention on Wetlands of International Importance”. The mission of the Convention is the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation throughout the world.
The wise use of wetlands is defined as “the maintenance of their ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development”. Wise use therefore has at its heart the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and their resources, for the benefit of humankind – a principle that hunters strive for every day.
Wetlands are the most endangered ecosystems in the world, despite having a key role in preserving biodiversity and offering unique ecological services for human welfare, such as tourism. In fact visitors do not only contribute to a specific wetland area through their financial input, but through their activities such as bird watching or hunting.
Healthy habitats are the secret of viable waterfowl populations, which form the basis of any recreational activity on wetlands. People want to see birds, not empty marshes. Hunters actively take part in the maintenance of breeding areas of waterfowl. For example in the Nordic countries, that is not without any reason called “the duck factory of Western Europe”, thousands of wetlands have been restored or re-created with the involvement of hunters during the last few decades.
The latest progress in Finland is a Life+ project called “Return of Rural Wetlands”, which is promoting wetland restoration and re-creation among landowners and hunters in agriculture and forestry areas aiming to restore 36 demonstrative wetlands around the country.
Small predators, especially the invasive alien species such as raccoon dog and mink in Europe, pose a significant threat to many bird species on wetland areas by eating eggs, nestlings and even adult specimen. Their control has therefore become indispensable in the breeding success of many native species’ populations. By annually taking countless number of small predators from wetland areas, hunters put a lot of voluntary effort as a concrete conservation work.
Management and conservation of migratory bird populations requires precise and up-to-date information on their populations and trends along their flyway starting from the breeding grounds. Hunters are providing invaluable data of e.g. breeding success for analysis at a national level and so contribute to the improvement of the knowledge base.