|A new century, indeed a
new millennium, has dawned since the last printed issue of
Wildfowling Magazine went to press. Now that all the hype and the
fireworks have died down, what does the new age hold for the sport
Will we see a continued decline from
the golden era that seemed to last from about 1890 - 1980 or will
there be a revival in our fortunes? Can our sport change to meet the
challenges of the future or will we become bogged down, both
literally and metaphorically, in the marshes and estuaries of the
It is, of course, tempting to look
backwards and fondly remember times when most of our sport below the
sea wall was carried out without too much worry about political
interference or attacks by "animal rights" campaigners. To
an era when wildfowling clubs across the country were growing and
thriving. To the days before shotgun certificates, non-toxic shot,
the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the loss of the name WAGBI. To
be sure, the final 20 years of the last century probably saw more
restrictions placed upon wildfowlers than most of us had expected.
Nevertheless, we must shake ourselves
out of this frame of mind. Memories are fine - but they do belong in
the past. Let's concern ourselves with some of the more positive
indications of where the future of our sport might lie.
For a start, the wild populations of
many of our quarry species seem health. Some are growing, many are
more than holding their own and few give much cause for concern.
International awareness of the importance of co-operation in
waterfowl management should help to provide early warning signals of
any threats that emerge.
In the past there was a real worry
that the industrialisation of our estuaries and marshes would
continue until there were no fowling grounds left in Britain. That
threat has been largely removed by government acceptance that
planning considerations must take account of environmental issues.
Sometimes we complain about bureaucracy but, in this case, it seems
to be working in our favour.
So, I do not accept that the future
for wildfowling is as dismal as some people suggest. What I do
maintain is that we must, as a body of sportsmen, have a firm action
plan for the coming years so that we can actively promote our sport.
Some of the matters that we should be acting upon are:
Improving PR -
The public and, in particular, politicians need to be constantly
reminded about all of the positive things that wildfowlers do for
the links of trust and co-operation between wildfowling
organisations and conservation bodies. Some of our own number are
sceptical about this but those of us who worked actively in that
field in the past know that we can generate an enormous amount of
goodwill by getting influential conservationists on our side.
club network - there still are some healthy and active fowling clubs
but many others appear to be struggling. Some now even have to advertise
for members. Personally I would like to see more of the
subscriptions paid to BASC coming back down to club level.
of all - find ways of attracting more young people into our sport.
If we can positively promote each of
the above action points and successfully win back some of the ground
we have lost, then I see no reason why the sport of wildfowling
should not have a rosy future in the 21st century.