Third year of implementation
This year's turtle dove hunting season was the third year of implementation of the Adaptive Harvest Management (AHM) program led by the European Commission (EC). Although there have been calls for a total moratorium on turtle dove hunting, the Central and Eastern Flyway Member States have followed the recommendation agreed in the Working Group and with the European Commission in 2021 to reduce the take rate by 50%. This flyway includes Austria, Romania, Italy, Malta, Bulgaria, Greece and Cyprus (although the latter nation is part of the Black Sea-Middle East route). Overall, these Member States achieved a harvest reduction of more than 70%, in both 2021 and 2022. This success was the result of setting national/regional and daily/seasonal harvest quotas for hunters. For example, in several Italian regions a limit of 10 turtle doves per season per hunter has been established, with a maximum of 5 per day. To follow the trend of these quotas, new online reporting systems have been created that allow hunters to record their harvest in real time. Once the quota is reached, the dove hunting season is closed.
Hunters from the Member States
The reduction of the harvest on the central-eastern route has been a success so far, thanks to the active support of the hunting community in those Member States. The results of the 2023 hunting season will soon be discussed in the EU Bird Recovery Task Force. However, reducing the harvest alone will not be enough to increase turtle dove populations. Habitat management and broader restoration actions are critical to the recovery of all farmland birds. The turtle dove needs suitable habitats for breeding and foraging, which are disappearing due to the intensification of agriculture across Europe. Fortunately, hunters have long been dedicated to the conservation of the turtle dove by investing huge resources in measures for the habitats in which the species is huntable. For example, while some studies have highlighted the importance of hedges and other patches of natural vegetation in farmland for turtle doves, hunters in Vendée (France) have planted 512.000 trees and shrubs in the last 20 years, equivalent to 374 hectares of forest and 96 km of hedges, financed by the Hunting Federation.
Another good example is the planting of thousands of hectares per year (more than 110.000 hectares between 2005 and 2019 at a cost of over 2 million euros financed by the Hellenic Hunters Confederation) with seed-rich crops, such as sunflowers , which are not harvested and which create a rich mix of highly beneficial seeds for the turtle dove and for biodiversity in general. Hunters are also active in research, for example, with the collection of wings obtained through harvesting. Analysis of data from wing surveys is useful as it provides an estimate of the ratio of adults to juveniles captured, which can be used to follow annual reproductive success. FACE urges its members, as well as national authorities, to continue efforts in habitat management and restoration, research and monitoring. This includes maintaining good catch reporting programs and improving systems where necessary. To learn more about the AHM process and the work of hunters in turtle dove conservation, see FACE's reports on the AHM construction process ( here ), the first ( here ) and second ( here ) years of turtle dove hunting in scope of the AHM program (source: Federcaccia).