New EU fishing rules 'may be drawing seagulls inland'

Ban on discarding fish means birds deprived of food source, fishing group chair says

Reports of an increase in the number of seagulls coming inland to forage for food may be due to a new EU rules on the discarding of fish, the chairman of a fisherman’s group has said. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

Reports of an increase in the number of seagulls coming inland to forage for food may be due to a new EU rules on the discarding of fish, the chairman of a fisherman’s group has said. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

 

Reports of an increase in the number of seagulls coming inland to forage for food may be due to a new EU rules on the discarding of fish, the chairman of a fisherman’s group has said.

John Tattan, of the South and West Fish Producers Organisation, believes the increase in inland gull activity, including claims of the birds attacking sheep, stems from the implementation of new EU fishery regulations.

“The majority of seagulls live off fish that are discarded at sea, juvenile fish and fish that are not fit for market and we get thousands and thousands of gulls when we are hauling our nets,” he said.

“We hold all those gulls when we are sorting and gutting the fish and they can be quite aggressive landing on the boat and even stealing some from the boxes before they are put in the hold.”

Mr Tattan said seagulls have traditionally scavenged for food from among the small juvenile fish that are discarded overboard but that is now changing because of the new rules.

“From January 1st 2016, all whitefish will have to be landed in port, there will be no more discarding of fish at sea - it’s already started with pelagic species and next year it will apply to all whitefish,” he said.

“That means there will be no discarded fish for seagulls to feed on and, unlike gannets who fish, seagulls depend hugely on dead fish being discarded so they are starting to come inland for food.”

Call for cull

Reports of seagulls coming inshore recently prompted Senator Denis O’Donovan from Bantry to raise the issue of aggressive seagulls and last month he called in the Seanad for a cull of the birds.

Mr O’Donovan said “vicious seagulls” had “actually killed lambs, they’ve killed rabbits” and they were now “invading towns and villages” and posing a danger to Irish society.

A motorcyclist Vincent Appleby last month said he was attacked by a seagull while travelling between Caherciveen and Waterville in South Kerry.

Kerry farmer John McCrohan told Radio Kerry how he witnessed the deaths of two mature ewes in an attack by a number of gulls on his farm between Camp and Anascaul.

Mr Tattan, who fishes out of Ballycotton in East Cork, said he was not surprised by such stories of seagulls coming well inland to forage for food because of the new regulations.

“We haven’t noticed any major increase here because we are by the sea but there are a lot of reports that there are a lot more gulls scavenging at rubbish tips and dumps for food,” he said.

“I’m not surprised they are heading inland because with fewer fish being discarded due to these new rules, they have no option - survival is the priority at the end of the day.”