Duck hunting in the spring - risk to biodiversity and animal welfare
Report no: 2022:29
Gaps in knowledge and data make it difficult to assess the consequences that spring hunting of male ducks may have on biodiversity and animal welfare.
This is the key message in a risk assessment that VKM has carried out for the Norwegian Environment Agency.
Spring hunting of ducks, in Northern Sami called "lodden", is part of the Sami hunting and trapping tradition. In Norway, spring hunting has for many years been permitted in the municipality of Kautokeino based on the exception provision in Wildlife Act Section 15, and hunting quotas are allocated for males of several duck species. Spring hunting may conflict with the management principle in the Wildlife Act, which stipulates that activities which cause unnecessary damage and suffering to wild animals and their nests and dens must be avoided, and with the Wildlife Act itself, which states hunting should not take place during the nesting and breeding season.
The Norwegian Environment Agency asked VKM to assess the risk spring hunting might pose to biodiversity and animal welfare if the hunting harvest were as large as the following hypothetical quotas: 150, 300 and 500 males of the following six species – mallard, tufted duck, velvet scoter, common scoter, long-tailed duck, and red-breasted merganser.
VKM was also asked to point out relevant risk-reducing measures.
VKM's project group defined negative impacts on biodiversity and animal welfare for the local populations of the six duck species and other migratory waterfowl. A negative impact on biological diversity is defined as a negative impact on the robustness of the populations, i.e.survival and viability.
The project group gathered data through literature searches and reports from the Kautokeino municipality to the Finnmark Estate (Finnmarkseiendommen) and gathered hunting statistics from Statistics Norway.
The project group modelled scenarios for several conditions, such as different quotas and hunting harvests, changes in survival outside the hunting season(s), and reduced nesting success due to disturbances. These scenarios were used to predict how the populations might react when conditions change. The modeling gave insight as to the information the administration needs to calculate the effect of spring hunting on the stocks and to determine hunting quotas.
“Any hunting of the local populations of velvet scoter, common scoter, and long-tailed duck will entail a high risk to the survival of the local populations, because the populations are already small, these species are in decline, and are vulnerable or nearly threatened,” explains Bjørnar Ytrehus, scientific leader of the project group.
The certainty of this conclusion is medium.
“For mallards, red-breasted mergansers, and tufted duck, the consequences vary depending upon how large the stocks are locally, and upon the size of the hunting quota. In any case, all our conclusions are uncertain due to several critical knowledge gaps,” says Ytrehus.
When it comes to animal welfare, VKM concludes the risk is greater if hunting is carried out in both spring and autumn, than if hunting occurs only in one season.
For the ducks being hunted, spring hunting does not pose a greater risk to animal welfare than autumn hunting, if it does not take place on the majority of tributaries in the waterways in the area.
“In that case, the spring hunt would very likely cause a serious disturbance to many ducks, and thus be a risk to their welfare,” Ytrehus points out.
The risk assessment has been approved by VKM's Panel on Biodiversity.