Sun | Dec 11, 2016

NEPA won't clip bird hunters' wings

Published:Wednesday | July 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Peter Knight, Guest Columnist

Peter Knight, Guest Columnist

The National Environment and Planning Agency's (NEPA) takes this opportunity to respond to a letter written by Authnel S. Reid, published on July 24, 2014. It is a fact that NEPA is responsible for the administering of annual game bird-hunting season under the Wild Life Protection Act (1945).

Survey data collected from February to June 2014 showed that the breeding activities of the game birds were comparable to previous years, indicating current drought condition did not affect the breeding of the birds.

Using the number of birds detected per observation hour, at any point along a survey route, as a measure of relative abundance, the average results show that the number varied between 50 birds per hour and 70 birds per hour in the last 10 years.

managed hunting season

In 2013, data showed there were 53 birds per hour, and, in 2014, there were 58 birds per hour. When these results are compared to the average take per hunter for the six weekends of hunting for the same period, it varies from 107 birds to 152 birds, with an average of 129.

NEPA is confident that if the detection of birds stays within 50-70 birds per observation hour, and the yield per hunter remains above 100 birds, the populations are stable enough to allow for a managed hunting season.

The decision to recommend a game bird-hunting season to the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) is underpinned by scientific research and analysis and consultation with the Game Birds Working Group. The decision of the NRCA requires the approval of the minister with portfolio responsibility for the environment, which is subsequently published in regulations.

NEPA would not recommend a hunting season if it were not confident in research findings it conducts annually. Having accepted the findings of the studies and the accompanying recommendations, NRCA declared a hunting season for six weeks, beginning August 16 and ending September 21.

Four bird species: White-crowned pigeon, white-winged dove, zenaida dove and mourning dove, belonging to the pigeon and dove family, are declared game birds because of their strong resilience, swift and powerful flight, high reproductive rate (up to six broods per breeding season) and their large population size. NEPA maintains the responsibility for monitoring and enforcement with support from the police, game wardens and environmental NGOs.

game birds

Indeed, the record will show that in 1974 the season was declared closed. This lasted for eight years. The decision was taken to reopen it only after it was decided to limit the duration of the season to six weeks, reducing bag limits to hunters, declaring specific hunting times and declaring bird sanctuaries and game reserves. Regulations have been amended to give effect to the changes. These arrangements remain in effect to present.

It is noteworthy to state that in 2005 the declared season was five weeks because of the existing drought. In 2007, the season was reduced to three weeks because of adverse weather conditions attributed to Hurricane Dean.

The arguments for reducing the length of the season because of the drought are accepted and are worthy of consideration. NEPA is monitoring the drought situation and it is possible that a recommendation could be made to NRCA if the findings show that the impact on the game-bird population is adverse. We are not now at that point.

Peter Knight is chief executive officer/government town planner at NEPA. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.