Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Questions (37)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

37. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht when the survey of Irish hares will be completed; if, in the interim, she will consider suspending netting of wild hares for the purpose of hare coursing as was done in Northern Ireland before a ban on live hare coursing was introduced there in 2011; and her views on whether the Irish hare should be protected due to the concerns regarding biodiversity. [24077/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

EU Directive 92/43/EEC (the Habitats Directive) requires Ireland to make a detailed report every six years on the conservation status of all listed species, including the hare. Ireland’s most recent report in 2013 included a comprehensive assessment of the range, population status, habitat and threats for the Irish hare. The report can be downloaded at https://www.npws.ie/article-17-reports-0/article-17-reports-2013. The next report is due later in 2019.

The 2013 report stated that the Hare is found throughout the country from coastal habitats to upland heath and bog. The Hare is widespread and common in Ireland with a broad habitat niche. None of the identified threats are considered likely to impact on its conservation status in the foreseeable future and the Overall Conservation Status was assessed as Favourable. My Department is not aware of any expert reports which indicate a national decline, in the interim, in the population of hares.

In addition to the reporting requirements of the EU Habitats Directive, data on the distribution of the hare is being collected continuously by the National Biodiversity Data Centre and the recent Atlas of Mammals in Ireland 2010-2015 provided a summary of the species’ range, demonstrating that it remains widespread across the country.

My Department recently commissioned a new assessment of the status of hare’s population in Ireland. The survey work to inform this population assessment has already begun with the main survey work to occur over the 2018/19 winter period. The final report is due later in 2019.

The data in these survey reports, particularly with regard to population trends, does not suggest an ecological basis for the cessation of hare coursing pending conclusion of the overall survey.

The control of live hare coursing, including the operation of individual coursing meetings and managing the use of hares for that activity, is carried out under the Greyhound Industry Act 1958, which is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. My responsibility relates to the conservation status of the hare.

My Department issued the Irish Coursing Club with licences in August 2018 on behalf of its affiliated clubs to capture and tag hares for the 2018/19 coursing season which extended from the end of September 2018 to the end of February 2019. There are 29 conditions associated with the licences issued to the Irish Coursing Club which have been developed and refined over the years.