Decision to ban hunting of four types of migratory ducks challenged in High Court

Decision To Ban Hunting Of Four Types Of Migratory Ducks Challenged In High Court
A pintail duck. Photo: Getty Images
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High Court reporters

A body that represents thousands of shooting enthusiasts has brought a High Court challenge against the State's decision to ban the hunting of four types of migratory duck due to their declining numbers.

The challenge centres around a decision made last August by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage that has the effect of banning the hunting of Scaup, Pochard, Goldeneye and Pintail ducks.


The ban, which was introduced by way of statutory instrument in what is known as an Open Seasons Order under the 1976 Wildlife Act, came into place on September 1st last.

The Government, in a press release, stated that the ban was due to a significant decline in their population, and their low population numbers.

The four species of duck migrate to Ireland in the winter due to the moderate climate, but do not breed here, the court heard.

 A Pochard duck. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
A Pochard duck. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The action has been brought by The National Association of Regional Game Council (NARGC) which has 26,000 members in over 1,000 clubs that for many years have been instrumental in the conservation of wild bird species in Ireland, and its chairman Mr John Butler.

They claim that the Minister's decision to remove the four duck species from a list of birds that can be hunted is flawed, irrational and disproportionate.

It should be set aside on grounds including that it was made without any adequate evidence, they claim.

The evidence on issues such as the bird population levels, trends, and if hunting was impacting on its conservation status was incomplete and unreliable, it is claimed.


They also claim that the Minister failed to apply the correct analysis of the criteria required that would allow the Minister to introduce the hunting ban.

It is claimed that the decision fails to take account of any economic or recreational requirements, or of any adequate conservation efforts in respect of the relevant species.

The decision, it is claimed, was also based on an incorrect interpretation of data relating to the four species, where irrelevant considerations were taken into account by the Minister.

Represented by Neil Steen SC, Mr Butler and the NARGC have brought judicial review proceedings against the Minister, Ireland and the Attorney General.


They seek various reliefs including an order quashing the Minister's decision to impose the ban, and an order that their legal costs for taking the proceedings be provided.

They also seek various declarations including that the state has failed to set up a reliable system for the collection and analysis of data to establish the state's bird population.

They further seek a declaration that the State has failed to take the requisite measures to maintain the population of the various birds, including the four species of duck, at levels that correspond to ecological, scientific and cultural requirements of the Wildlife Act or EU Directive on Birds.

The matter came before Ms Justice Niamh Hyland on Monday, who on an ex-parte basis granted the applicants permission to bring their action.

The matter was adjourned and will return before the High Court in February.

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