Sustainable Hunting in the Mediterranean countries - Africa and Middle East
Hunters kill an estimated 500 million birds as they migrate through the Mediterranean each year, a significant proportion of which are shot or trapped in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East that border the Mediterranean. Most are from species and populations that breed in Europe and winter in Africa and many of those killed are internationally threatened species or listed on Annex 1 of the European Union’s ‘Birds Directive’. However, hunting is an important socio-economic activity in the region, particularly in rural areas, involving hundreds of thousands of people and hectares, and supporting a variety of groups and the interests of these groups must be considered if conservation measures to address the plight of migratory birds are to succeed. Management of bird hunting in the region is inadequate often with poor legal regulation and law enforcement, lack of resources and capacity among relevant government institutions and NGOs, poor public and hunter awareness of the impact of hunting, a lack of regional agreement on action to better protect migratory birds, and past conflicts between hunters and conservationists.
In response to the above, BirdLife International, in partnership with AAO in Tunisia, SPNL in Lebanon and AEWA, with additional financial support from the European Union’s LIFE Third Countries fund, VBN and UNDP-GEF recently completed a 3-year initiative (2004-2007) to tackle these issues in the region. The LIFE Third Countries in the southern and eastern Mediterranean are: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. The overall goal was to "strengthen the management of bird hunting in selected North African and Middle Eastern countries of the Mediterranean region to reduce excessive, indiscriminate and illegal hunting of migratory birds, promote more sustainable hunting practices and enhance the compliance of international and regional agreements on the conservation of migratory birds".
The Project achieved these through a series of regional initiatives and ‘model’ collaborative projects between government, hunting and conservation groups and other stakeholders in Tunisia and Lebanon. These countries acted as a focus or ‘hub’ for projects that can be replicated in other countries in their region (French-speaking North Africa and the Arabic Middle East, respectively). The project ran from November 2004 to October 2007. Activities included:
- Review of information on hunting of migratory birds: The Project reviewed current bird hunting, its management and impact, socio-economic and cultural importance, potential alternatives, and ‘best practice’ for hunting of migratory birds in region and published a series of synthesis reviews that will act as a resource for national governments and other interested stakeholders.
- Guidelines for Sustainable Hunting of Migratory Birds: The Project developed a ‘model‘ for a more responsible, sustainable approach to the hunting of migratory birds in the southern and eastern Mediterranean in a partnership between government institutions and conservation and national hunting groups and included joint development of a ‘Code of Practice’ and recommended accreditation system for hunters.
- Promotion of sustainable hunting behaviour: The Project sought to make hunters and national and local government staff more aware of the impact of hunting on migratory bird populations, legal rights and responsibilities and promote good hunting practices and ‘stewardship’ of natural resources to reduce indiscriminate and unnecessary killing in Tunisia and Lebanon.
- Improving public awareness: The Project developed educational materials and programmes on bird conservation and sustainable hunting practices for specific target audiences, such as local governments and teenage males (the next generation of hunters) as well as the general public in Tunisia and Lebanon.
- Development and enforcement of hunting legislation: The Project addressed some of the inadequacies of hunting legislation and enforcement in Lebanon and Tunisia through a review of current legislation, design of hunting permit systems, in a partnership between government, conservation and hunting groups. The project also developed a database of priority species and sites in need of legal protection and held ‘awareness days’ on hunting legislation and identification of protected bird species for law enforcement officials.
- Resolving conflict and building partnerships: The Project worked to improve communication and understanding between government, conservation and hunting groups through a series of training workshops on conflict-resolution, consensus building, advocacy and networking for national and local governments and selected NGOs.
- Strengthening co-operation and compliance with international agreements: The Project sought to generate greater political awareness and create the enabling environment for increased membership of international agreements through review of the key agreements with the governments in the region. The project also held a meeting to demonstrate alternatives to the use of lead shot for hunting.
- Project Sustainability: The Project identified essential follow up activities through the development of a Regional Action Plan for Sustainable Hunting and Conservation of Migratory Birds in the Mediterranean countries of North Africa and the Middle East for the period 2008-2013.