At the same time as Birdlife International is gathering evidence from their partner organizations for a review of illegal killing and taking of birds, the NGOs of Estonia were striving for changes in our regulations to guarantee waterfowl safety in their migration corridors.
On the order of Estonian Ornithological Society (EOY) and Estonian Council of Environmental NGOs (EKO) an analysis was prepared by the Centre for Environmental Law (CEL), revealing that the effective regulation is Estonia is not adequate enough to guarantee sustainable and ecologically balanced waterfowl hunting. While so far publicity and information work has been used to find solutions to the bird hunting problem, now EOY and CEL share the standpoint that this is not enough. EOY believes that a day quota should be prescribed to catches, e.g. maximum 3 waterfowl, and that this may not be overrun by a single hunter.
Unethical bird hunting tourism has aroused passion in the public for several years. Heinous stories about hundreds of birds being killed in coastal meadows, loads of dead bird bodies in the forests, so-called killing tourism in Estonia and cases with people, eager to slaughter and ignoring Estonia's hunting regulations, have angered representatives of the state authorities. At the beginning of December changes in regulations were under discussion.
The first time killing of birds caught public interest was two years ago on west Estonia's small islets. According to their local long-time tradition, local hunters would shoot 2-3 Mallards each autumn and that is it. Foreign hunters shoot indiscriminately everything that is flying or swimming around, using forbidden decoys and electronic sounds. In protected areas of our western coast, and small islets, hunting of birds is generally forbidden. Loud banging and killing birds next to the borderlines of national parks in Matsalu, Vilsandi and elsewhere, scares migratory bird flocks from their, thousands of years old, traditional stopping and resting areas.
One reason why talks about banning the hunting have come about is the peculiar hunting manner of the foreigners. Bird hunters from all over the Europe rush to Estonia, even to the neighbourhood of national parks, having read birds hunting advertisements from the internet. So it happened that a new scandal erupted in October this year: "In Penijõe village, about 100 meters from the border of the Matsalu National Park, there are goose decoys in the field and the hunters are lurking in the nearby bushes. Early in the morning I heard gunshots from the same place. A car with foreign registration number plate was standing at the roadside, I took a picture of that. It is obvious what kind of a tour-operator has brought them here and most likely this is legal, but at the same time it is disgusting and cynic. Estonia is one of the most important migratory bird stopover locations in Europe and promiscuous hunting is taking place right in the backyard of a bird reserve!"
This is an excerpt from a nature forum posting by Marika Mann, local birdwatching and nature tour operator. This discussion quickly raised tempers and after a week it was reaching national media and politicians.
To find solutions to this smouldering problem a special meeting was called of the Environmental Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament) in the beginning of December, with representatives from the Centre for Environmental Law, Estonian Ornithological Society, Estonian Hunters' Society, Ministry of Environment, Environmental Board, Estonian Private Forest Union, Association of Estonian Cities and Association of Municipalities of Estonia. Problems were analysed and solutions were proposed in the meeting. Veljo Volke, conservation officer of the EOY, expressed an opinion after the meeting, that the discussion will be continued. "While all the parties acknowledge the existence of the problem, solutions need to be found, so that the next hunting season may come without any unpleasant surprises," reported Veljo Volke.
Good news is, indeed, that Long-tailed Duck, Common Eider, Grey Heron and Raven, which have in the past been considered wild game birds, are now excluded from that list as of July, 2016.