Changes to open season shooting list “VERY LIKELY”

23 Sep

david norris open season shooting list

The Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan – who earlier this month said that changes to the open season shooting list were “possible” – has this week stated that changes are “VERY LIKELY”.

In a letter to Senator David Norris, Minister of State Noonan stated: “Changes in the ambit of the 2023/2024 [open seasons] order are very likely”.

“In effect, this will mean the likely removal of certain species from the order,” he added, pointing to the “information currently available, the number of species under conservation threat, and our legal obligations under the Birds Directive.”

Earlier this month, in response to a Dail Question to Brid Smith TD (People Before Profit-Solidarity, Dublin South-Central), Minister of Noonan said that “changes in the ambit of the 2023/2024 order are POSSIBLE”.

He acknowledged to Deputy Smith that there are “conservation concerns” about most of the birds that he and his Department are currently allowing shooters to blast out of the skies for fun.

“The conservation status of some of the species that may be hunted in Ireland is declining,” he stated. In an accompanying list of birds, the majority were highlighted as having “conservation concerns”, i.e.

Red Grouse, Shoveler, Scaup, Pochard, Goldeneye, Golden Plover, Snipe, Woodcock
(All are threatened red-list birds of “highest conservation concern”).

Teal, Gadwall, Wigeon, Pintail, Tufted Duck, Greylag Goose.
(All are threatened amber-list birds of “medium conservation concern”)

and Jack Snipe.

Despite being an amber-list species, Mallard was not acknowledged by Minister Noonan as being of conservation concern.

Since the beginning of September, birds – including the amber- and red-list species – are being gunned down by shooters, after Malcolm Noonan and colleague Minister Darragh O’Brien refused to remove them from the hunting list.

Among the birds being targeted by shooters are Snipe and Scaup whose status has alarmingly dropped from amber to red, with breeding populations of snipe in Ireland now “IN SEVERE DECLINE”. Despite this, hunters are free to shoot them out of the sky for five months – 1st September to 31st January.

Pochard and Goldeneye may also be shot dead in the same period. Both have experienced severe declines in their wintering populations.

The decision to allow shooters to continue killing these birds is completely reckless and must be reversed. The priority should be to protect Ireland’s birdlife and not to appease the minority who consider it fun to reduce these magnificent wonders of nature to lifeless lumps of bloodied feathers and shattered bones.

In his reply to Deputy Smith, Minister Noonan added that “the internal NPWS working group set up to review the status of Birds Directive Annex II species on the Open Seasons Order is carrying out considerable work to develop a range of options available for future Orders.”

The one and only option is to immediately remove these birds from the open season order and to give them full protection before it’s too late.

There is no necessity to embark on a “wide-ranging consultation with stakeholders and interest groups”. It has already been established by BirdWatch Ireland and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) that these birds are threatened amber- and red-list species. All of the remaining individuals are precious and every effort must be made to protect them.

Will the fate of these declining birds be that of the curlew which is now on the brink of extinction? It wasn’t until 2012, when the number of breeding pairs had plummeted by up to 96%, that shooting them was finally banned. An unforgivable failure by those tasked with protecting them.

In his correspondence to Minister Malcolm Noonan, Senator David Norris also asked about the removal of the Irish Hare from the open season order.

Minister Noonan’s disappointing response to this was: “I am not proposing a review of the wild mammal Open Seasons Order at this time.”

The inclusion of the Irish Hare – an icon of Ireland’s wildlife heritage – on the open season list means they may be blasted to death as they sit inoffensively in fields. They may also be chased to exhaustion by packs of hounds and torn to bits. And, thanks to a licence shamefully granted by Minister O’Brien, coursers are now netting thousands of them from the wild for use as live bait for greyhounds to chase – all so that a merciless mob can come to coursing meetings and gamble on which dogs will force the hares to change direction first.

There should be no debate about, or delay in, ending the shooting and hunting of threatened species.

Read the “Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland 4: 2020–2026” report at

See the NPWS open season order at


Please join us in urging Ministers Darragh O’Brien and Malcolm Noonan to, at the very least, immediately remove the amber- and red-list birds – and the Irish Hare – from the open season list.

Encourage them to give full protection to all Irish birds and mammals.

Minister Darragh O’Brien (Fianna Fail, Dublin Fingal)
Tel: (01) 618 3802 OR (086) 251 9893

Malcolm Noonan TD (Green Party, Carlow Kilkenny)
Minister of State for Heritage
Tel: (01) 888 2425 OR (01) 618 3156

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