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Friday, 28 June 2013

Controversial herring gull cull gets green light

Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, has given the green light to a controversial cull of endangered sea birds on the Ribble Estuary in Lancashire,  the Guardian has learned. The said it is “extremely concerned” that the cull of up to 475 breeding pairs of herring gulls and 552 breeding pairs of lesser black-backed gulls at BAE System’s Warton aerodrome could now set a precedent for similar culls elsewhere.

 cull has been given the green light by the environment secretary. Photograph: Markus Botzek/Zefa/Corbis
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) ruled that the cull could go ahead because it would not reduce the area’s number of breeding seabirds by more than 25% of its designated total of 20,000 birds. The RSPB said that while its recognised BAE Systems’ concerns that the gulls present a risk to aircraft using the airfield, it fears that the 25% reduction threshold cited by Defra could now be used to justify further culls.
BAE Systems’ application to cull the birds was originally rejected in 2010 by Natural England, the government agency responsible for protecting the bird species, on the grounds that it was not compatible with the conservation objectives stipulated by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The Warton aerodrome lies inside a SSSI (site of special scientific interest) as well as being part of the Ribble and Alt Estuaries special protection area (SPA), meaning that its endangered bird species are afforded further conservation status and protection by the EU.
However, BAE Systems successfully appealed against Natural England’s original decision, citing in part – according to documents seen by the Guardian – that Natural England had earlier given consent to a cull of lesser black backed gulls on a shooting estate on the Bowland Fells , a nearby SPA in Lancashire. Chris Packham, the BBC Springwatch presenter and naturalist, described the Bowland cull as a “travesty” when it was first reported in the Guardian last month .
BAE Systems also successfully persuaded Defra that the site’s “species diversity” was not a relevant factor when assessing its total number of breeding seabird.
Defra granted the consent to cull on 29 May and BAE Systems now has a year to complete the extermination of the birds. Appeal documents show that shooting the birds within two daily alternating “cull zones” is the preferred method. Marksmen positioned in camouflaged hides will use rifles muffled with silencers.
A Defra spokeswoman said: “After careful consideration, we have taken the decision to allow a limited number of gulls to be controlled that are impacting on air safety.”
A Natural England spokeswoman said: “Natural England has been directed [by Defra] to consent control of a limited number of gulls on the Ribble Estuary that are impacting on air safety. We expect to issue the consent within the coming weeks. We continue to consider ways to minimise the impact on the estuary’s important colony of seabirds, taking into consideration the safety of aircraft using BAE Warton.”
A spokeswoman for BAE Systems said the company legally carried out a smaller cull of 200 breeding pairs of lesser black backed gulls in 2011 and has also been deploying “bird scaring” techniques at the airfield. However, it said that the population of birds had “grown substantially”.
She added: “The population of herring gulls at the Ribble Estuary presents a risk of birdstrike to aircraft operating from Warton airfield. BAE Systems has sought to reduce this risk. Following a public inquiry, and a decision by the secretary of state, we were given consent to cull up to 475 pairs of herring gulls on Banks Marsh.”
The RSPB said that it acknowledged that BAE Systems had first explored using non-lethal methods and that a cull is now necessary to the “reduce the risk [of bird strike] to a safe level”. However, it said it was “extremely concerned” with the way the Defra had arrived at its decision and its “implications for the UK’s wildlife”.
Martin Harper, the RSPB’s conservation director said: “Although we recognise the air safety risk, we believe the secretary of state’s conclusion is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of wildlife protection designed to conserve the UK’s best wildlife places. We strongly disagree with his interpretation that it is acceptable to lose up to a quarter of a protected site’s breeding bird population without it damaging the conservation value of that site. This sets a very worrying precedent for this and similar sites across the UK.”
This  was written by Leo Hickman for the Guardian UK


  1. This disgusting government will not be happy until they have slaughtered all the wildlife in this country.

  2. The text is too small and the contrast with the background too little for me to easily read this post. But, the title of your post tells me that the decision did not go well!

    1. I've put up the text, thanks for telling me.

  3. Ik merk wel dat je een echte natuur liefhebber bent het is goed nieuws Bob lieve groetjes Danielle

    1. Yes, I believe that I am, best wishes Danielle.

  4. Mu godness, if Nature Conservation has no power left, where are we going....
    This is terrible news. One can wonder what the true story is behind all this; control, money, power...
    Thanks for sharing on your blog.
    Keep well Bob

  5. That is a shame, indeed...
    Gov. Should give the example taking good care of those areas and not otherwise.
    How can I tell my pupils to respect nature if many GoV. just do not care?
    Shame on them...shame on them...

  6. Hi Bob,
    Terrible message is this.
    It's all about money and power.
    It's a shame!
    Best regards, Irma

  7. lots of culling going on over there. gulls. badgers.

  8. This is bad, and sad news!! :=(

  9. Bob, why can't they just leave the animals alone! It absolutely disgusts me!

  10. If there are less gulls there will be less food waste littering the streets. That must be a bad thing??

  11. I think it is, there are ways to to keep our streets clean, like putting it wheelies, that's the best way.

  12. Sorry i lost this post Bob!
    This is sad news!
    You know that i love gulls!
    You all must do something about this!
    Thank you for sharing!

  13. I'm so sorry Bob, why should there be aircraft routes next to estuaries? How horrible.