Dáil Questions: Arts Heritage & the Gaeltacht

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Animal Welfare, Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dáil Issues

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht further to Parliamentary Question Number 255 of 25 June 2015, the action, if any she has taken since June 2015 to stop bait digging on Bull Island, a practice described by naturalists as inconsistent with the Nature Reserve status of the island and which is having a negative impact on birds on the mudflats.
Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 1st June, 2016.

Ref No: 13117/16 Lottery: 15
R E P L Y

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Heather Humphreys, T.D.)
As I indicated in my reply to Question No 171 on 26 May 2016, I am very aware that the Bull Island is a hugely important amenity resource for the people of Dublin, as well as being of very high nature value. Clearly, the concept of sustainable use is important in the management of such areas, particularly if there is a long history of such amenity use by the local population.

It has been long recognised that bait digging occurs at the Bull Island and that such digging removes some worm species that are also used as food by the birds on the Island. As I stated in my recent reply, the Bull Island is surveyed annually as part of the Irish Wetland Birds Survey, which collects data on the number of wintering birds at sites around the country. This survey is coordinated by BirdWatch Ireland under a contract from my Department. Officials from the Scientific Unit of my Department’s National Parks and Wildlife Service have reviewed the data for the Bull Island from 2001 to 2014 and concluded that there is no evidence of any decline of the bird groups, such as waterfowl and waders, that use and feed on the mudflats. For example, in the winter of 2001/2002, the peak number of waders, one of the main groups of birds species, was 16,513. In the winter of 2014/15, the peak number was almost identical, at 16,733. There were some fluctuations in numbers over those years, especially during and after the exceptionally cold winter in 2010, but numbers have recovered since then.  There is a very similar pattern for ducks and geese, another important group of birds associated with the mudflats.

I am advised therefore that there is no current evidence of a negative impact from the bait diggers, although there will be temporary disturbances in small areas. Accordingly, I am not convinced that there is a need to intervene on bait digging. My Department will continue to review data from the Bull Island and from other relevant sites elsewhere in the country.

NO. 65

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht further to Parliamentary Question Number 52 of 8 December 2015, how confident she is that the evidence regarding the effect of coursing on hare populations that forms the basis of the decision to issue licences for hare coursing is valid, given the last Hare Survey of Ireland took place almost a decade ago, in 2007.
– Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 1st June, 2016.

Ref No: 13118/16 Lottery: 81
R E P L Y
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Heather Humphreys, T.D.)

Hares are a protected species under the Wildlife Acts and may only be hunted during the prescribed Open Season. There is also a facility under these Acts to issue a licence for coursing.
I am advised that there is no current evidence that hare coursing has a significant negative impact on hare populations. The most recent population estimate for the Irish hare – undertaken in 2007 – was 535,000 animals. Coursing Clubs affiliated to the Irish Coursing Club catch in the region of 5,500 hares each coursing season, equivalent to approximately 1% of the national resource. I am further advised that more than 95% of the hares captured for hare coursing are returned to the wild each year. In addition, independent scientific studies have estimated that hare mortality during captivity and coursing in Ireland is equivalent to less than 0.1% of the total adult hare population annually.