NEPA responds to call for suspension of bird hunting season

THE EDITOR, Sir:

The National Environment and Planning Agency's (NEPA) takes this opportunity to respond to a letter written by Authnel S. Reid, published on 24 July 2014. It is a fact that NEPA is responsible for the administering of the 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 that the 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 of birds varied between 50 birds per hour and 70 birds per hour in the last 10 years. In 2013, the data showed that 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 that 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 its research findings which it conducts annually. Having accepted the findings of the studies and the accompanying recommendations the 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 Pigeons and Doves Family are declared game birds due to 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 JCF, Game Wardens and environmental NGOs.

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 the bag limits to hunters, declaring specific hunting times and declaring bird sanctuaries and game reserves. The 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 due to the existing drought. In 2007 the season was reduced to three weeks due to adverse weather conditions attributed to Hurricane Dean.

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


I am etc;

Peter Knight
Chief Executive Officer/Government Town Planner, NEPA

Appeared in The Gleaner: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20140730/cleisure/cleisure4.html

Published Date: July 30, 2014

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