Clam trap use in 2013: what you should know

Illegal use of a clam trap

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.

Illegal use of a clam trap
Illegal use of a clam trap

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.

7 thoughts on “Clam trap use in 2013: what you should know”

  1. Good to know about the bait condition. What about the legality of a trap without water given a bird could be in the trap ‘legally’ for 24 hours?

    [Ed: Good question! It was one asked by MSP Claire Baker and we’re eagerly awaiting the Government’s response – see:

    It’s also a question we’ll be looking at in more general terms in the new year regarding whether these new general licences meet the criteria of the animal welfare legislation. We’d don’t believe they do].

  2. Intend to be out and about Birding over the holidays so it’s good to know what to look for, and very good to know about the types of bait allowed.

    [Ed: great stuff, Stewart. It’s clear that it’s down to us to find evidence of illegal-use – we can hardly rely on the trap-users to fess up! By the way, if you find any of these traps in use before 1st January then you should definitely report it. We believe that clam traps are illegal under the 2012 general licences and there are currently some prosecutions pending].

  3. I don’t understand all this hillarity surrounding the Larson mate on here it clearly states the only permitted bait is bread and eggs so capture of raptors is highly improbable! As for the larson mate not having shelters or water this isn’t a requirement on the catching compartment of the Larson trap itself so why would the Larson mate be any different!

  4. Its pretty easy to understand, some gamekeepers still dont or wont understand what is permitted bait, just look back to the glen brown trial to verify that. still await your opinion on if shooting 1000 Partridge in a morning counts as sporting or slaughter! Interesting to see Alistair Balmain condemn the latest Harrier killing on Yorkshire moors, just like previous editors have taken the oppertunity to condemn persecution when they,ve had a quiet week. he also used the mags quote about the wildlife of today not being ours and we have to account for it to those in future, well Alistair you also have to account for it to us today, your sport is depriving us today. lip service isnt sufficiant

  5. I have to disagree slightly, Merlin. All gamekeepers do understand what is permitted as bait, it’s just that many choose to ignore the instructions and deliberately target protected species.

    Regarding your much anticipated response from Grouseman, you might be in for a long wait. I’m still waiting on some answers from weeks ago!

  6. Hi Marco, I dont really expect an answer, I,ve noticed if someone writes something that is slightly incorrect, Grouseman will jump on them, If someone writes something that is correct but Grouseman is uncomfortable with, he goes quiet in an attempt to let it blow over, I’m just enjoying the silence :-)

  7. Great advice. Still can’t get my head around the fact that SNH feel it is ok to allow a trapped wild bird to go without water, shelter and a suitable perch for twenty four hours. The denial of these basic needs will only cause an already stressed bird even more stress. These wild birds may also be denied adequate food for the twenty four hour period, as a few rancid eggs and some bits of bread aren’t going to go far. As well as this, does SNH really think it is ok for a bird, trapped in one of these cramped devices, to be denied the opportunity to act out its most basic behaviours such as wing stretching and flying? What on earth were SNH thinking to go ahead and permit such a crude and indiscriminate trap that hasn’t even been tested for welfare purposes? What is the urgency that they have ignored the welfare needs of these trapped wild birds? As I have said before, it isn’t as if trap operators don’t have enough traps littering our countryside already.

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