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In periods of severe winter weather (usually when freezing weather conditions are persistent) the relevant Government ministers have the power to make a Protection Order banning or suspending the shooting of wildfowl and waders under Section 2 (6) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

Statutory Suspension of Waterfowl Shooting in Severe Winter Weather (Adobe Acrobat Reader required)

When is a ban enforced?

The shooting of wildfowl and waders is suspended after 15 consecutive days of severe weather.

The criteria for triggering severe weather procedures are based on the state-of-ground data collected daily by 23 coastal National Climatological Message Stations around Britain. The procedure leading up to a wildfowling ban is as follows:

When more than half of the climatological stations have recorded seven consecutive days of frozen or snow covered ground in Scotland or England/Wales or both, the Joint Nature Conservancy Committee informs BASC accordingly.

If the severe weather is likely to continue the BASC informs the secretaries of its Wildfowling and Gameshooting clubs, Joint Councils and syndicates that, if the severe weather continues for a further six days and looks likely to continue, then a Protection Order suspending the shooting of wildfowl and waders in the appropriate country is likely to be signed on the 13th day (if more than half of the meteorological stations are still recording frozen or snow covered ground), and will take effect at 9.00am on the 15th day.

Throughout this period, information on local weather conditions and wildfowl numbers and behaviour is closely monitored all around the country.


Prior to the above procedures being brought into action, the BASC call for Voluntary Restraint, in appropriate areas, from day eight of severe weather, up to the time when any statutory suspension takes place. Such restraints are an integral part of the arrangements for wildfowling during periods of prolonged severe weather. There are guidelines available from the BASC, but there are no set rules as conditions and requirements vary around the country. Wildfowlers are best placed to consider all the facts relevant to their particular locality and to decide the most appropriate action. It is a voluntary restraint that is urged by the BASC, not a ban, although if necessary a self-imposed ban may be the best course of action.

Who decides that there should be a ban?

The criteria listed above for deciding when there should be a suspension of wildfowling have been decided jointly by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the BASC. All of these bodies are consulted before a Protection Order is signed.

Does a ban affect the whole country?

This depends on the extent of the severe weather. A wildfowling ban can be instituted throughout Great Britain, in Scotland alone or in England and Wales. If you are in any doubt, contact your regional BASC Office.

What if the weather changes before the ban?

After five days of severe weather when more than half of the climatological stations have recorded frozen ground, short periods of thaw (one or two days when less than half the stations are frozen) have no effect on the lead up to a ban. A thaw of three or more days terminates the severe weather process. The short periods of thaw are 'neutral' in terms of counting days towards a ban; they neither count nor terminate the process.

How will I know if there is a ban?

When a statutory order is signed, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department as appropriate, issue press releases and place public notices of the suspension in the following national and regional newspapers:

The Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, Daily Mail, Sun, Scotsman, Glasgow Herald, Dundee Courier and Advertiser, Aberdeen Press and Journal, Dumfries and Galloway Standard, Edinburgh Gazette and the Western Daily Mail.Announcements are also placed in the sporting press and on television and radio. If you are in any doubt, you should contact your local BASC Regional Office where a 24 hour telephone information service will be available.

Scotland - 01350 723 226

Northern England - 028 9260 5050

Midlands - 01889 565 050

East England - 01284 728 752

South East England- 01798 865 165

South-West England - 01823 480 903

Wales - 01686 688 861

BASC Headquarters - 01244 573 000

Local Wildfowling clubs will inform their members of details of voluntary restraints prior to a statutory suspension.

Similar arrangements apply in Northern Ireland, although the period leading up to a ban is shorter and the ban comes into force on the thirteenth day of severe weather. For information contact the BASC Northern Ireland Office, 01266 652349.

How long will a ban last?

A statutory suspension of wildfowling will last for a maximum of fourteen days although it is reviewed after seven days. The ban may be lifted before the end of fourteen days if the weather conditions have improved and the forecast is for a continuation of this improvement, although this will take into account the need for a recovery period for the wildfowl after severe weather.

If the ban is lifted, DETR, SERAD and BASC undertake a publicity campaign to inform wildfowlers of the fact. If the severe weather continues beyond the first fourteen days, and looks likely to continue, a second suspension order may be signed, suspending wildfowling for a further fourteen days.

Which species are affected?

When a Protection Order is signed, it is an offence to kill or take any of the following species, whether on the coast or inland:

Ducks: Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Pintail, Tufted duck, Pochard, Shoveler, Gadwall, Goldeneye

Geese: Greylag, Pinkfooted, White-fronted, Canada

Waders: Golden plover, Woodcock, Snipe, Moorhen, Coot.

Game birds are not affected, but reared duck are.

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