NRW Board make changes to General Licences

Two pigeons standing on a wall

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has today confirmed a new approach for granting general licences for the control of wild birds following a decision by its Board today (24 March).

The decision comes following a review of NRW’s licencing system to ensure processes currently in place are robust and proportionate.

The review included a specific focus on General Licences – a process where licences are given for activities that carry a low risk to the conservation or welfare of a protected species.

While all wild birds are protected by law, there are specific circumstances where NRW licences the lethal control of wild birds and the destruction of eggs and nests for defined purposes, such as to protect public health or safety, to prevent serious damage to crops, livestock or fisheries, or to conserve other species of wildlife.

The NRW Board considered the recommendations arising from the review, specifically in relation to general licences. It decided that NRW should continue to grant general licences for the control of wild birds for some purposes, in some circumstances and where there are no other satisfactory solutions.
The decisions made by the Board today will mean changes to licences from the 1st July and these include:

  • Species whose populations in Wales are significantly declining will not normally be considered suitable for listing on general licences.
  • No additional species will be added to the scope of general licences at this time.
  • The general licence for the purpose of preventing serious damage to crops and livestock will specify which species of birds may be controlled to prevent which types of damage.
  • The general licence for the purpose of conserving wild birds will allow the control of carrion crow only, to conserve a list of Birds of Conservation Concern (BoCC) red or amber listed species which breed in Wales and which are considered vulnerable to predation by carrion crow.
  • A general licence will continue to be issued for the control of feral pigeon for protecting public health and safety. Controlling any species of gull for this purpose will continue to require applying for specific licences.
  • Using cage traps to control wild birds will be subject to a number of new conditions and advice concerning animal welfare and reducing risk of bycatch.
  • The number of SSSIs where general licences may be used will be increased.
Ceri Davies, Natural Resources Wales’ Executive Director for Evidence, Policy and Permitting said:
“We are committed to delivering a licensing system which is effective, practical and proportionate for users, while providing the necessary protection for birds.
“We have worked with key stakeholders to test our thinking and we’ve invited evidence from others to inform our work. We have commissioned and gathered scientific evidence, and have tested our proposals through a public consultation, to which we received more than 600 responses.
“We are confident that following the Board decisions today that we have a robust and proportionate approach to our general licences. To ensure that we are using the most up to date evidence and data, we will in addition be establishing a formal six-yearly review process for our general licences.”

Anyone who intends to use lethal methods to control birds in situations that are not covered by a general licence can still apply for a specific licence.