'Tough task' ahead to combat seagull menace across north-east
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Have a look at our brand new digital subscription packages!
THE menace posed by gulls to communities across Moray and Aberdeenshire took centre stage at a virtual meeting.
Attended by 45 people, the meeting was chaired by Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Karen Adam, who stated that the issue had dominated her social media sites since her election in May.
A half-dozen strong panel, including Moray Council leader Councillor Graham Leadbitter, Aberdeenshire Council's Protective Services Department service manager Gordon Buchanan and various wildlife and pest control experts, were on hand to give a variety of perspectives on the problem.
Councillor Leadbitter told the meeting that Moray Council were undertaking a range of measures to combat the gull menace, including egg and nest removal, bird-proofing buildings and installing gull-proof bins. Further measures are in the pipeline, he explained but were currently awaiting approval.
He noted that common good funds in the region were getting involved to examine and fund locally-based solutions.
However, one aspect of the problem – that of gulls sourcing food –was proving difficult to deal with.
He continued: "Seagulls roost in the town and feed at pig farms.
"It is possible to gull-proof the pig feeding mechanism but this costs hundreds of thousands of pounds [per farm] and just isn't affordable.
"The council needs to have a discussion with the NFU in addressing this food source."
Mr Buchanan told the meeting the local authority were reviewing their options as to how they tackle gull-related issues
He said: "This year we've had an increased number of complaints, although we don't know yet if it's because of the gull population increasing or because we didn't notice it so much last year because of lockdown.
"Just now we want to look at aspects of it. We're not sure how effective egg and nest removal is.
"Over the next few months we'll review what we're doing and what we can do better, as well as any novel strategies we could potentially put in place.
"The gull season starts end of March/start of April so we'd at least want to have a strategy in place by then. A report will be put back to the Infrastructure Services Committee by January."
The Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP has been vocal in her stance on working to find a positive solution and said that a mixture of short and long term solutions would have to be found. There were warnings from the panel that some long-standing measures to deal with gulls, such as culling, could prove counter-productive and simply result in moving the problem elsewhere and make it worse.
Among the longer term solutions suggested were finding sites where gulls could form a colony away from where they presented annoyance to humans or even looking at moving them back towards their natural habitat. One panellist, Keith Marley, the founder of the New Arc project, suggested that gulls came to town and cities primarily to find a safe place to breed. Instances of gulls snatching food were, he stated, simple "opportunism" rather than a central reason for the birds being there in the first place.
Speaking after the meeting, Ms Adam said: “Thank you again to everyone who’s contacted me about the gull issue. From Buckie to Boddam and across the north-east coast, this is an issue that has had a profound impact on locals for a long time.
“It’s one of the key issues that has been continuously brought to my attention since I was first elected in May. When this first became apparent by constituents contacting me, I pledged that I would do everything I could to help tackle the issue within my role as an MSP.
“The public meeting that I chaired has been immensely helpful, and I hope is the beginning of collaborative working across local authorities and the relevant organisations to make a collective effort to take safe and humane measures to tackle the problem. I’m really glad as well that everyone who stayed until the end were able to have their say and voice their thoughts. Every contribution made by members of the public was constructive and respectful and there are a lot of action points to take away from this.
“There is no single measure that will have much of an impact to address the effect gulls are having on the wellbeing and safety of people living on the coast. However, and this is why collaborative working is so important, by introducing a package of measures, we may be able to tackle the gull issue head on. It’s going to be a tough task but I will do everything I can within my remit so that we can get a positive outcome from this.
“I’ve said many times before while campaigning on this, people have been continuously woken by gull noise at early hours in the morning, having their property splattered and damaged, and have had to cope with aggressive gulls protective of their nests. I understand the impact it’s having and that’s why organising this meeting was really important. The concerns of my constituents are now out in the open and we also had the opportunity to learn what can be collectively done to combat this.
“I know that realistically this will be challenging, it will take years to get under control, but that’s exactly why it’s important we start preparations as soon as possible, there are measures we can take in both the short and long term on this. I was only elected in May but now I am in a position where I may be able to affect change. Someone needs to do something about this and I’m willing to try my best to do exactly that.”
Also joining the panel were: Dr Andrew Douse, policy and advice manager at Nature Scotland ornithology expert; Keith Marley, the founder of the New Arc project; George Duguid, of Ellon-based company GD Pest Contro: Kevin Newill, owner of Humane Wildlife Solutions, which was set up to help others overcome conflicts with wildlife and nature, such as the seagull issue.