Evidence of widespread illegal hunting of waterfowl in England despite partial regulation of the use of lead shotgun ammunition.
Shooting of birds using lead shotgun ammunition was legal for all quarry species in the UK until 1st September 1999, when the Environmental Protection (Restriction on Use of Lead Shot) (England) Regulations 1999 and similar regulations in other UK countries came into effect. These regulations made it illegal to shoot ducks and geese and some other waterfowl species in England with lead shotgun ammunition and/or to use it in certain wetland habitats. The legislation was intended to reduce the incidence of lead poisoning of wetland birds caused by ingested and embedded shotgun pellets. We evaluate the effectiveness of this legislation by estimating the number of ducks shot in England with lead shot. We also assess the effectiveness of awareness-raising actions about the regulations, including an advocacy campaign intended to encourage compliance, and an undertaking by the UK Government to examine ways to improve compliance and enforcement. We estimate that about 13 million ducks have been shot illegally using lead shotgun ammunition in England since 1st September 1999 - an annual average of approximately 586,000 and representing approximately 70% of the total ducks shot. There was no detectable decline in the number of ducks killed using lead shotgun ammunition following the awareness-raising publicity and advocacy campaign by shooting and countryside management organisations. The government review of implementation and enforcement of the Regulations on the level of this wildlife crime was not followed by any new prosecutions. There has been one prosecution for an offence under the Lead Shot Regulations. We conclude that the 1999 Regulations and attempts to promote compliance with them have effected only a small reduction in the use of lead shotgun ammunition in wetlands in England.