|Problems with Enforcement of Lead Shot Regulations in England
As a response to the issue of unnecessary mortality of wildfowl as a result of lead poisoning and as a Contracting Party to AEWA the UK became committed to phasing out the use of lead shot in wetlands. The Government introduced a two-year voluntary phase-out of lead shot in England in 1995 but this did not effectively address the problem. As a result, legislation was enacted in September 1999 whereby the Environmental Protection Regulations state that it is illegal to shoot certain species of waterfowl (i.e. Ducks, geese and swans, coot Fulica atra, Anatidae, moorhen Gallinula chloropus, golden plover Pluvialis apricaria, common snipe Gallinago gallinago) with lead shot and it is prohibited to use lead shot below the high water mark and in certain named wetland protected areas (“SSSIs”).
Subsequently, regulations limiting the use of lead shot have been introduced in Wales (The Environmental Protection (Restriction on Use of Lead Shot) (Wales) Regulations, 2002), Scotland (The Environmental Protection (Restriction on Use of Lead Shot) (Scotland) (No. 2) Regulations, 2005) and Northern Ireland (The Environmental Protection (Restriction on Use of Lead Shot) (Northern Ireland) Regulations, 2009) In Scotland and Northern Ireland regulations ban lead shot use over “wetlands”, rather than the species and sites based approached employed in English and Welsh legislation. This case study refers only to the English regulations.
Understanding the reasons for poor compliance in England
Compliance in England remains poor. Significant efforts from shooting organisations, notably the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), to communicate the requirements of the legislation appear to have so far failed to deliver effective compliance. Hunters and weapon suppliers understand the regulations but the complex system is poorly understood in detail. This, along with a poor understanding of the reason behind the regulations, appears to be key contributing factors to a weak compliance in addressing lead poisoning of waterfowl.
A small scale study carried out by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB/BirdLife UK) and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) in 2001/2002 found significant non-compliance with lead shot regulations in England. Despite being illegal, 68% of mallard shot with lead pellets have been purchased from game dealers.
A further study was commissioned in 2008 by the UK Government’s Department of Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) and carried out by the WWT with a contribution from BASC. The study consisted of two main sections to identify the understanding, compliance and views on the regulations. The first section was a survey of duck purchased from game dealers to directly assess compliance with the legislation and the second section were surveys conducted across two key stakeholder groups, hunters and weapon suppliers
The survey of duck purchased from dealers, with 70% of ducks illegally shot with lead, showed a high and widespread non-compliance with the regulations across England. This figure is very similar to the 68% non-compliance reported in the 2002 study suggesting that despite the relatively high profile of lead issues, conveyed via the shooting press media, there has been no improvement in compliance with the lead shot regulation.
Poor understanding could not explain the low levels of compliance documented in the report, 45% of those legally obliged to use non-lead shot indicated that they either sometimes or never comply with the regulations. Over a third disagreed with the intention behind the regulation. The main reasons for disagreement were: perception that lead poisoning was not a sufficient problem to justify the regulations; a belief that the regulations were the start of phasing out lead shot; lack of enforcement; and that the non-lead alternatives were expensive, not widely available and not as effective as lead.
The results of the weapon supplier survey were similar to the hunters with a poor understanding of the regulation. Their understanding of their legal responsibilities, on the other hand, was relatively good and 55% reported making compliance a requirement in hunting activities. Overall, the non-compliance appears driven less by a lack of awareness and more by a belief that the regulations are not justified and are not enforced. This latter point is perhaps underpinned by the fact that there has only been one conviction under the regulations found in the UK.
 Cromie, RL, Brown, MJ, Hughes, B, Hoccom, DG and Williams, G. Prevalence of shot-in pellets in mallard purchased from game dealers in England in winter 2001/2002. In: RSPB (2002) Compliance with the Lead Shot Regulations (England) during winter 2002/02, RSPB, Sandy, UK.
 Cromie, RL, Loram, A, Hurst, L, O’Brien, M, Newth, J, Brown, MJ and Harradine, JP (2010) Compliance with the Environmental Protection (Restrictions on Use of Lead Shot) (England) Regulations 1999, Report to Defra, Bristol, Pp 99.
|Recommendations for the EU Member States
To date, there have been no other formal assessments of compliance with regulations that limit the use of lead shot in the EU Member States even though lead poisoning is a known widespread concern in the EU, Most of the effort is currently focused on Member States that have not yet enacted legislation banning the use of lead shot in wetlands. Unfortunately, the English case study informs us that implementing legislation is not enough to eliminate the problem of lead shot use if there is no enforcement of compliance.
Education and persuasion will always be a vital tool in addressing the problem. Lead poisoning is an ‘invisible’ problem and the lack of first hand witnessing of individual effects can lead to the erroneous belief that the risk is exaggerated and hence the regulations unjustified. Provision of information and advice on the availability and efficacy of non-lead alternatives are likely to improve awareness, understanding and thus compliance. Hunting organisations (from the FACE network) are key in this effort and it should be emphasised that BASC, the UK FACE partner, has shown excellent leadership over an extended period in this subject.
Member States should give due consideration in addressing lead poisoning of waterfowl to more uniformly understood approaches to regulation. These could be conveyed through education and awareness campaigns in conjunction with national FACE partners. The Legislation process could also take into account enforceability and the biological fact that lead shot use in terrestrial as well as wetland habitats will exacerbate the risk of lead poisoning of waterfowl and indeed terrestrial wildlife. This may point towards more universal, rather than habitat based, legislative approaches as being favourable.
Jeff Knott, Jeff.Knott(at)rspb.org.uk