A Government decision to lift the ban on the shooting of Greenland white-fronted geese on the Wexford Slobs was defended this week.
Local shooting enthusiast Turlough Coffey said there has been a strong tradition of wild fowling in Wexford for over eighty years, and he objected to any ‘unnecessary’ restrictions on the sport.
Mr Coffey said wild fowlers would be first to put their guns away if the geese numbers were declining, but the opposite is actually the case.
Three years ago, the ban was introduced to protect the numbers of the Greenland goose. It was estimated at that time that there were only 12,000 geese worldwide, with the vast majority wintering on the Slobs. According to Mr Coffey, the population is now 20,000 with over 7,500 in Wexford, and there is ‘certainly’ no threat to their future.
Last week, Wexford TD and Junior Minister for Forestry and Fisheries, Michael D’Arcy, lifted the ban in relation to Wexford only, and permitted shooting for six weeks between 16th November and 4th January. However, his decision was condemned by conservationists.
But Mr Coffey welcomed the decision. He said he was also a conservationist, but shooting has a role to play in conservation. What some people instead wanted was a total prohibition on wild fowl shooting, he said.
‘We wouldn’t shoot the geese if they were an endangered species, and we would put our guns away if the population dropped below 4,000,’ he said.
There is no threat to the species in Wexford, he went on. The season will only last for six weeks, with only one shoot being planned every two weeks, and even then only in the morning. And he added that there are only about fourteen shooters even using the Slobs.
He believes that 7,500 of the geese is enough for Wexford. We respect them but they can become a pest if numbers grow too much, he says, as they can seriously damage winter crops, particularly in April before they fly back to Greenland.