Parliamentary Questions and Answers

Question 1355 - Answered on 26th January, 2005

Dan Boyle: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has examined the effect of the ban on hare coursing in Northern Ireland and the way in which such a ban might impact here.

Reference: 1421/05

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. Dick Roche): I am aware that the Northern Ireland authorities have recently renewed a ban on hare coursing in their jurisdiction which was introduced in January 2004. In the experience of my Department's National Parks and Wildlife Service, the main determinant of hare population levels is the availability of suitable habitats and land management practice and capture of hares for coursing does not significantly impact on their conservation.

The licensing provisions of the Wildlife Acts 1976 and 2000 are designed to regulate the hunting of wildlife at sustainable levels. The licence issued under section 26(3) of the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended, to the Irish Coursing Club for the season 2004-2005, prescribes a number of conditions relevant to conservation and prohibits the export of hares out of this jurisdiction. No Northern Ireland based coursing club is covered by the licence.

A steering group comprising members of staff from my Department and from the environment and heritage service of the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland has been set up to draft an all-Ireland species action plan for the Irish hare. Work on drafting this plan commenced in June 2003 and is expected to be finalised by March 2005. A survey to estimate hare numbers in Ireland is expected to be one of the strategies proposed in the plan. Once the plan has been finalised implementation of identified strategies will commence.

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