Wetenschap - 7 februari 2013

More geese again in five years' time

In a new agreement on geese, foraging grounds for winter geese are to become resting places - for which farmers get lower levels of compensation. There are also plans to cull half a million summer geese, but gassing is no longer an option. What does animal ecologist Dick Melman think of the plans?

There was a lot of public opposition to gassing.
'Sorry, but I can't say anything about that. As an animal ecologist, that is not my field of expertise.'
OK. Is the goose population going to shrink?
What surprises me in the text of the agreement is that it claims no effort is required to keep the goose population down. There will be no need to shake their eggs, for instance. But if you want to keep the goose population at a low level you really do have to maintain a continuous level of effort. If you stop shaking the eggs or other forms of population control, the population will increase at once.'
Will this agreement really be implemented?
'The nice thing about the agreement is that it was signed by the G7: seven stakeholders, including the Society for the Protection of Birds and LTO. This agreement expresses a joint policy for controlling the numbers of migrating geese in the winter and reducing the numbers of summer geese. But besides cutting numbers, the agreement is intended primarily as a way of controlling the costs better.'
Will it be cheaper?
'That is the aim. Currently farmers are paid for managing the foraging grounds for winter geese. Farmers make sure there is enough grass there for the geese. If these areas just become resting areas, the farmers no longer have to provide enough food for the birds. Instead of a management subsidy, damages will be paid as necessary. But it is hard to establish damage. In the winter the grass does not grow - or very little. It seems as if the main aim of this agreement is to control costs.'