Just a day before the Christmas holidays in Bulgaria hunters killed a Red-breasted Goose in front of the hunting control field staff of Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) in the area of Shabla Lake SPA.

  According to the information by the BSPB field assistant the hunters arrived with a 4x4 WD vehicle and are not local hunter, but visiting shooters in the area. They started chaotic shooting into a low flying mixed flock of Redbreasts and White-fronted Geese and one of the Redbreasts fell down 15m away from the BSPB staff. Immediately a signal to the regional Inspectorate of Environment and the local Police was given. The killing of globally threatened species in Bulgaria has been recently made a criminal act leading to 250 Euro fine and up to 5 years in jail term.

  This is happening just a day after a consultation meeting was held to discuss a new regulation on the hunting within Shabla and Durankulak SPAs by closing the hunting in these two Ramsar sites one month earlier – form 1st January to provide resting area for the large concentrations of wintering geese including large percent of the global population of the Red-breasted Goose. The local hunters fiercely oppose this threatening with protest by hunters form other regions as well. However there is not a single Natura 2000 site in Bulgaria where any hunting regulations are imposed, while poaching acts are not an accident, but regular occurrence in them. This made several of the leading conservation organisation in Bulgaria including BSPB to submit a proposal for partial regulation of the hunting in Shabla and Durankulak SPAs through shortening the hunting season in the period of the greatest concentrations of Redbreasts in Coastal Dobrudga.

  Last year in a similar brutal way a Great Bustard was killed by hunters in area. The Great Bustard beside being globally threatened is extremely rare in Bulgaria and the killed bird was one of the two birds registered in the country during the winter.   The BSPB has been actively working on the conservation of the Red-breasted Goose and Shabla and Durankulak lakes for over 2 decades now and is currently implementing a EU funded Life + Project “Safe grounds for the Redbreasts”, which started in 2010. As part of the project the BSPB, along with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the RSPB, is implementing a comprehensive research programme to collect new data on the species habitat requirements and wintering distribution in order prescribe appropriate conservation measures for the species. Working with the local farmers and especially hunters is a key point in the project. As a constructive conservation organisation BSPB has been long working to develop cooperation with the national and local hunting associations and the issue of poaching has been discussed on various levels.

  The lack of appropriate control and enforcement of the existing hunting and conservation legislation will lead to serious problems that might escalate to infringement procedure in the EC as the country is failing to ensure the conservation of major part of this globally threatened species along with others occurring in the area. The uncontrolled issue of hunting permits to hundreds of hunters and the lack of subsequent control over them is one of the major issues. During January the official hunting days are Wednesday and the weekend, but at the same time just at the cost of 25 Euros any hunter can buy the right to shoot any other day of the week which turns January into a permanent hunting month in the region. While in countries where hunting traditions are strong have banned goose hunting in Natura 2000 sites or like in Russia limit the hunting in key areas like Manych Gudilo in Russian Kalmikya, the Bulgarian authorities have taken no measures to control the problem.