So, it appears that SNH have ignored the pleas from several organisations to reconsider their policy on allowing the use of clam-type traps in 2013 – they’ve just published their 2013 General Licences (e.g. see here for GL #1). This general licence, “to kill or take certain birds for the conservation of wild birds” is effective January 1st 2013 until December 31st 2013.
Whether or not the content of this new general licence, and the others (see here for the list of the rest of them), is legal, remains under dispute. We’ll come back to that, probably in the New Year, after we’ve had the chance to review all the material.
In the meantime, it’s worth noting the conditions laid out in this general licence for the use of clam traps. Please note: this general licence is only applicable in Scotland; England has its own set of regulations.
Things to look out for if you come across a clam-type trap in Scotland 2013 and you want to know whether it’s being used lawfully:
1. Eggs or bread are the only permitted baits for use with Larsen Mate or Larsen Pod traps (i.e. clam-type traps). If you see one of these traps in use with any other bait (e.g. rabbit & squirrel have often been used), it is being used unlawfully.
2. Any Larsen Mate or Larsen Pod trap must be firmly pegged or staked to the ground before use. If it isn’t, it is being used unlawfully.
3. The trap must carry a tag or sign that gives the number of the local police station or wildlife crime officer for the area. The tag or sign must also carry a unique code that allows the owner to be identified by the police. If it doesn’t, it is being used unlawfully.
4. When open (i.e. set), the minimum distance between any two corners of the Larsen Mate trap must be 39 cm. If it’s less than this, the trap is being used unlawfully.
5. The Larsen Mate trap must not shut tightly along the majority of the length of the meeting edges. (Yes, the defence lawyers will rip this to shreds as they argue about the definition of ‘tightly’).
All the other usual conditions apply (i.e. any non-target species not listed in the general licence must be released unharmed immediately on being found in any trap; any trap while it remains in use must be checked once every day at intervals of no more than 24 hours; when not in use, the trap must be immobilised and rendered incapable of use by either removing from site or securing shut with a padlock) etc.
If you happen to come across one of these clam-type traps, whether you think it’s being used lawfully or not, please report it to the SSPCA and RSPB. Why? Because who wants to rely upon the word of the trap user that it’s being used lawfully? You should try and provide details of the trap’s location (grid ref is best) and preferably a photograph of the trap in-situ. Try and get a photo with some landscape in the background to help the evidential link between the trap and location.
The Environment Minister has confirmed that “if evidence does come to light indicating that they [clam traps] pose unacceptable risks, then any general licence permitting their use could be revoked at any time” (see here). Ok, let’s call his bluff and provide that evidence.
Contact: SSPCA (24 hr line) 03000-999-999
Contact RSPB Scotland 0131-317-4100
For further information about reporting suspect traps, please read this.