Why is a goose considered a bird

Management of barnacle geese

Basics and requirements

The number of barnacle geese (also known as barnacle geese) has increased significantly in recent decades. While in the 1970s a population of less than 50,000 animals was registered in the Barents Sea (Northern Russia), it is currently assumed on the basis of censuses that the autumn population in the North Baltic Sea area will be 1.3 million. Almost all other geese species have also seen a comparable increase in the population. This is a recovery of the populations to the conditions in the 19th century after barnacle geese and brent geese almost became extinct in the 1950s. The population of the Brent Goose, which is also found in the Wadden Sea, has decreased again by around 30% since 1995, that of the barnacle goose has remained stable since 2015.

The barnacle goose is a high Arctic breeding bird. Nevertheless, in the last 40 years some pairs have also been able to establish themselves as breeding birds in Germany. These are likely to be traced back to hunting victims and refugees from captivity. In the Federal Republic of Germany the breeding population of the barnacle goose is small (around 800 pairs) and is therefore not considered in the following. Most barnacle geese breed in northern Russia and use our northern German coasts and inland areas close to the dikes to rest and overwinter. For food intake, they can be found on the grazed salt marshes outside of the dyke as well as on grassland and arable land inland. Other large wintering areas for the Russian-Baltic population are in the Netherlands and, due to the ever milder winters, also in Denmark. On the train barnacle geese can also be found on the Baltic Sea (Gotland).

A highly endangered species is returning: reasons
The barnacle goose population increased positively until 2015: Since a complete hunting ban was imposed in the 1970s, the population has been able to recover. At the same time, they benefited from the intensification of agriculture, which offers the geese high-energy green fodder during the spring break. The barnacle geese once left the Wadden Sea in March, flew to the Baltic Sea region and then, after a three-week rest, on to the Arctic. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, important agricultural land in the Baltic States was lost to the geese. At the same time, the growing population needed more food to move on. As a result, the geese had to change their migration strategy. Barnacle geese are staying longer and longer in the Wadden Sea area in order to create fat deposits, which now enable them to fly non-stop to the Arctic. They need more time for this. You will therefore stay with us longer. In the course of the recovery of the barnacle goose population, conflicts arise in particular with agriculture, which claim great damage from barnacle geese (and other species of geese) to grassland and arable land.

Demands for 'management'
Therefore a 'management' (hunting) of this kind is required. The aim of the hunting and agriculture side is to drastically reduce the number of barnacle goose, while from the ranks of nature conservation, to reduce damage in agriculture, a division of the areas potentially used by geese into areas of tolerance and displacement ("Go - and NoGo areas ") is preferred. In the "go areas", farmers who tolerate the geese in return receive compensation.

In the following, NABU presents the arguments and the scientific background. It rejects any hunting intervention in the stocks of the species protected by EU law. To achieve the goal of drastically reducing the population, massive hunting interventions would be necessary almost around the clock during the entire time they were present, and success remains doubtful. Such a slaughter could not be conveyed to the sensitized public with many tourists in the Wadden Sea National Park. The inevitable large-scale disturbance of other species would counteract other nature conservation goals such as securing the habitat and breeding grounds of meadow birds, and for this reason alone would not be tolerable.

Legal protection

No hunt possible

Barnacle goose (= barnacle goose), hung up to discourage people - Photo: Reimer Stecher

The barnacle goose is protected by applicable law such as the EU Birds Directive (EU VS-RL) and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds AEWA. Regarding the question of population encroachment through hunting, it is legally relevant that the barnacle goose, as an appendix I species of the EU VS-RL, may not be hunted on a regular basis. For these species it applies that, as an exception, they may only be hunted locally (!) If an exemption is granted according to Art. 9 of the EU VS-RL in connection with the applicable laws such as the Federal Nature Conservation Act. This can only be granted if there are demonstrably no other measures to prevent the damage in order to solve a locally existing (!) Problem.

The European Goose Management Platform (EGMP)

In May 2016, the European Goose Management Platform EGMP was founded as part of the AEWA agreement. According to the company, the goal is "to provide the mechanism for a structured, coordinated and inclusive decision-making and implementation process for the sustainable use and management of goose populations in Europe, with the objective of maintaining them at a favorable conservation status, while taking into account concerns of relevant stakeholders and the pertinent legislative frameworks and regulations. " The reason was that the number of different goose species had increased since the 1970s, also due to very successful protective measures. However, the possibility of a stock reduction cannot be derived from the work of the EGMP (see BMU letter of 25 September 2020).

No reduction claim (statement of the BMU)

At the request of NABU Schleswig-Holstein, the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) commented on the question of how the question of the assessment of the barnacle goose population situation asked by the State of Schleswig-Holstein to the EU Commission against the background of the Adaptive Flyway Management Program (“AFMP ") And the Favorable Reference Population (" FRP ") must be answered, from which the possibility of a reduction in the barnacle goose population is seen. NABU documents the BMU's response of September 25, 2020:

"(...) As part of the African-Eurasian Water Bird Convention (“AEWA”), the so-called European Goose Management Platform (“EGMP”) was founded. In addition to Germany, other AEWA signatory states are involved in this, which are involved in the flyways of the Nordic goose species and the gray goose. Within the EGMP, a management plan for the barnacle goose (= barnacle goose) was developed and most recently (in June 2020) a so-called Adaptive Flyway Management Program (“AFMP”) was decided, which is intended to specify the management approaches of the action plan for the respective flyway. Part of this AFMP are model calculations based on various reference values ​​(Favorable Reference Values), including the Favorable Reference Population ("FRP"). These reference values ​​are used (analogous to the Habitats Directive, for example) to estimate when the species no longer has a favorable conservation status and species protection measures must be taken. For the nuns, the theoretical FRP value is 380,000 animals and relates to nine states that form the flyway of the Russian / German and Dutch barnacle goose populations (including Russia, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany).

The task of the AFMP is not to keep the nuns population at a certain level, but to prevent the stocks from falling below the FRP value. The FRP value is therefore not a target value for the stocks. This is expressly formulated in the AFMP. The FRP value can only be assessed separately from other reference values ​​for distribution, habitat and future prospects within the framework of the population size model within the AFMP. Neither AFMP nor FRP-value in and of themselves authorize the reduction of stocks. The barnacle goose may only be removed in exceptional cases in compliance with the legal requirements of Art. 9 VS-RL. The examination and any granting of such exceptions is the exclusive responsibility of the federal states.

To ensure that the population size does not fall below the FRP value, the AFMP provides a safety threshold of 200% of the FRP value. If the flyway stock falls below this value, the AFMP regulates that all withdrawals must be coordinated between various contracting states. Germany belongs to the same management unit as the Netherlands and the population of this unit is currently 163% of the FRP value below the above. 200% safety threshold. As a result, any exemptions for extraction must not only comply with Art. 9 VS-RL. In addition, such withdrawals must also include be coordinated with Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands. This coordination between states along the flyway is the primary objective of the AFMP.

Go and NoGo areas

Barnacle geese (= barnacle geese) - Photo: Christoph Bosch

The designation of "go and no-go areas" is viewed by many conservationists as the preferred solution. Certain areas are designated in which the geese are allowed to eat undisturbed on attractive areas prepared for them (ideally wet or damp grassland) ("go areas"), and other areas that are primarily used for intensive agriculture, such as arable land, are determined from which the geese may be driven away without killing them ("NoGo areas"). It is important that the tolerance areas must also be sufficiently dimensioned to cover the needs of life in all years and seasons.

Disturbances increase the damage
One reason for creating quiet zones ("go areas") for geese is that the geese's energy requirements (and thus the amount of food consumed on the usable areas) increase massively when they are frequently driven away and have to be blown away a lot. Geese quickly learn where they are undisturbed. If these are large enough, they remain there and take in less food - in relation to permanently disturbed and therefore energy-consuming animals that fly around again and again. This reduction in disruption must include all important factors: agriculture, air, road and boat traffic, tourism and wind energy. Only then will everyone benefit from it: geese, farmers and even endangered meadow birds such as lapwing, black godwit and curlew.

Experts agree that such a concept can work very well at the local level if the areas mentioned above. Fulfill criteria. Concerns have also been expressed: it may still require a lot of deterrence to keep the NoGo areas free from geese. This certainly applies if the Go areas are not attractive enough or are too small. In the process, species such as lapwing, lark and other endangered meadow birds would, due to the method and inevitably, be scared away, which rest on these areas and look for food without any impact on land management. However, since the NoGo areas were primarily intended to be arable land, the meadow breeders would hardly be affected by the deterring measures, as if grassland were also included in NoGo areas.

The go areas would also have to be very attractive for geese and largely undisturbed so that they can be flown to and used. In the case of the barnacle geese, the existing feeding grounds should be designated as go areas. In Schleswig-Holstein this mainly affects western Eiderstedt, Pellworm and Föhr. These areas should be optimized through the damming of water, the establishment of blenken and shallow waters. On the other hand, the special sowing of particularly preferred food in the go areas is to be rejected, as this would lead to an unwanted feeding effect there.

The situation of the barnacle goose

Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony

Goose repulsion - Photo: Ingo Ludwichowski

The Environment and Agriculture Ministry (MELUND) in Kiel has designated a hunting season for the barnacle goose. After that The hunt may be carried out from October 1st to January 15th with the proviso that the hunt is only carried out to deter and only in the districts of North Friesland, Dithmarschen, Pinneberg and Steinburg outside of European bird sanctuaries and only to prevent damage to endangered arable and grassland crops; the need to prevent significant damage to grassland crops must have been determined beforehand by a recognized expert (State ordinance on huntable animal species and on hunting seasons of March 6, 2019). This regulation contradicts EU law.

The MELUND working group for geese management has been discussing the implementation of Go and NoGo management for years with the participation of nature conservation associations and agricultural representatives. It is currently unclear whether a jointly supported solution will be found, since the agricultural representatives reject area management with different backgrounds and, with political support, especially from the CDU, are strongly pushing for a population reduction of the barnacle goose.

Lower Saxony
In Lower Saxony, the state government has taken a different path since 2000. In the important resting areas of the Arctic wild geese, farmers can conclude so-called goose protection agreements with the state if the areas are in selected Natura 2000 areas. According to the contracts, the farmers have to provide defined services for geese protection and receive an agreed amount of money for this, regardless of whether geese have actually visited the areas.

ILU, November 29, 2020


additional Information

No closed season for geese?

With an exception, animals can also be hunted during the closed season. Abundant use is made of it, especially with gray geese.


Hunting in Schleswig-Holstein

NABU takes a critical look at hunting, but does not reject it in principle. However, he calls for a stronger focus on nature conservation issues.