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Islay Sustainable Goose Management project

Update: 5 October 2015

 Scottish Natural Heritage have prepared a paper that summarises the information  PDF document   which will help inform the decisions made to deliver the Islay Sustainable Goose Management Strategy. It pulls together a range of data, some of which has been collected for a long period of time, such as goose counts and site condition monitoring reports and some which has been collected as part of new research such as damage measurements on grassland. Not all of the recent research work has been fully analysed to date but the paper is intended to be flexible and can be updated as this is completed. If further details are required on any aspects of the paper, they are available from SNH.

New Islay goose management strategy announced

Update : 18 December 2014

A new sustainable goose management strategy for the island of Islay has been announced today (18 December) by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). The strategy will reduce crop damage by an estimated 25% to 35% by decreasing the number of barnacle geese, improving habitat for rare Greenland white-fronted geese, and helping farmers manage their land more effectively. It will support large numbers of barnacle and white-fronted geese on the island, as well as help local farmers whose land and crops are affected by the geese.

The island's habitats are vital for Greenland barnacle and Greenland white-fronted geese, which are protected under European law. The barnacle goose population has grown from about 20,000 in 1987 to an average of over 41,000 in recent years. Farmers across the island have received funding to partially compensate for economic losses since 1992 Local and national organisations, including the Islay Goose Management Group, Islay NFUS, local staff from Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections office in Oban and SNH on Islay, have worked together on the new approach.

More than 70% of the island will remain as undisturbed feeding areas for geese. This will include large areas of grassland on individual farms, RSPB reserves, rough grazing, dune grasslands, saltmarsh and roost areas. Environment Minister Aileen McLeod said: "I welcome this long term strategy developed by SNH, Islay farmers and other stakeholders working to develop new approaches designed to support sustainable goose management on Islay. Aiming to significantly reduce the agricultural damage caused by geese through a variety of management techniques, the strategy will also support the Greenland white-fronted goose population. The strategy will inform management approaches to support sustainable agriculture on the island, whilst fulfilling our conservation obligations regarding goose populations and preserving the wildlife spectacle that Islay residents and visitors alike value so much."

Eileen Stuart, head of policy and advice at SNH, added: "Barnacle geese numbers have increased steadily on Islay over the past 20 years or so, and farmers have played a crucial role in this conservation success story. But with more geese, there has been increased pressure on both farmers and the public purse. We believe this new, long-term strategy strikes the right balance between conservation, making sure Islay farmers can use their lands profitably, and responsible use of public money. Local stakeholders have been vital in the development of this project." Robert Epps, a local farmer and a member of the Islay Sustainable Goose Management Group, said: "Sustainability is the key to this pioneering plan.

By adaptively managing the population of wintering geese, it should help sustain farmers` businesses, the geese themselves and their habitat. "It has been a difficult process at times, but our close involvement helped us understand the reasons for protected status and controls. Hopefully involving local farmers has also helped others appreciate the pressure being placed by geese on our farms." Crop damage will be reduced through scaring, diversionary feeding for Greenland white-fronted geese, and population reduction of Greenland barnacle geese. The local goose management group will develop a scheme to deliver the strategy objectives, and any population reduction will be made in increments.

The aims of the strategy include maintaining the Barnacle goose population at a sustainable level and increasing the number of Greenland white-fronted geese on Islay, through reducing disturbance, managing traditional feeding areas, and diversionary feeding.

Islay Sustainable Goose Management Strategy

UPDATE : October 2014

The partnership that has developed the Islay Sustainable Goose Management Strategy has recently submitted the Islay Sustainable Goose Management Strategy 2014-2024  PDF document paper to Scottish Government for their consideration.

The partnership involved in developing the strategy are Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Division and the National Farmers union of Scotland (Islay Branch).

Further updates will be posted on this page when they are available.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: Rae McKenzie: Tel - 01496 810711 or email

About the project

Over the past year the project has been working towards developing a long term plan which will take forward sustainable goose management over the next 10 years on Islay.

Rae McKenzie, Islay Sustainable Goose Project Manager, Scottish Natural Heritage and Bill Dundas, Steering Group Member, SGRPID, presented an update on the Islay Sustainable Goose Management Project to a conference organised by NFUS on Islay on 12 March 2014. The conference, held at the Gaelic College near Bowmore, brought together around 50 stakeholders to discuss a range of goose management issues on Islay and further afield.

The presentation  PDF document included an overview on goose numbers on Islay, an outline of the national goose policy framework, some information on previous schemes, management actions and some new ideas for resolving many of the goose management issues which exist on Islay.

The Strategy recognises the difficulties farmers have in supporting high densities of protected geese and looks at ways of how damage caused by geese can be reduced. It also looks at ways to improve feeding opportunities for Greenland white-fronted geese, a population which has declined significantly in recent years.

Islay goose count figures

Islay Goose Count Figures for 2014/2015 season  PDF document

Islay Goose Count Figures for 2015/2016 season  PDF document

Scottish Natural Heritage carry out four goose population counts each season.