The north-east has witnessed the third largest number of wildlife offences in Scotland, according to new figures.
A total of 33 crimes were recorded in the region in 2016-17 – the third-highest in the country – behind the Highlands and Islands at 58 and Tayside where there were 34.
However, there was a reduction in the overall number of wildlife offences across Scotland, from 261 in 2015-16 to 231 in 2016-17 – an 11% drop.
Fish poaching was the most common crime in the north-east, making up 11 of the 33 crimes.
Meanwhile, seven offences involving deer were recorded and five against birds.
During 2016-17, poaching and coursing offences reported to Police Scotland were down from 150 offences the previous year.
The north-east division had the highest number of hare coursing offences at 10.
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Scottish Tory MSP Peter Chapman has criticised the Scottish Government for treating hare coursing as an “afterthought”, compared to the government’s other priority areas.
The north-east MSP said: “The figures on hare coursing and salmon poaching are proof these crimes should be a focus area for the SNP’s environmental policy.
“These activities, particularly hunting with dogs, are often linked to wider criminality.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We take all instances of wildlife crime seriously and poaching and coursing is a national wildlife crime priority.
“The overall reduction in wildlife crime offences – now the lowest in five years – as well as a reduction in poaching and coursing offences and a 50% drop in hunting with dogs offences is welcome and we hope this downward trend continues.
“In 2018, we strengthened enforcement, with new Special Constables dedicated to wildlife and rural crime in Cairngorms National Park, and have also committed to increasing the maximum available penalties for wildlife offences.”