Environment Minister answers parliamentary questions on clam traps

Environment Minister Paul WheelhouseFurther to our blog on 12 December (here) where we reported that MSP Claire Baker had lodged several parliamentary questions about SNH’s controversial decision to authorise the use of clam-type traps in 2013…..Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse has responded.

Presumably, his answers are based on the advice of the Scottish Government’s nature advisors….er, SNH.

Here they are in full:

Question S4W-11729 To ask the Scottish Government what independent testing has been carried out to evaluate the risk of injury to birds and other animals from (a) Larsen Mate and (b) Elgeeco cage traps.

Answered by Paul Wheelhouse (21/12/2012):

The Scottish Government are not aware that any independent testing of the welfare impacts of these traps has yet been carried out since 2009 when these traps were first used in Scotland. The Scottish Government are also not aware of any evidence of adverse welfare impacts of these traps. Some conservation and animal welfare organisations do have concerns about the potential welfare impacts and so Scottish Natural Heritage intend to commission independent research in 2013 to gather objective evidence in this respect.

Question S4W-11730 To ask the Scottish Government what independent testing has been carried out to evaluate the impact of (a) Larsen Mate and (b) Elgeeco cage traps on (i) protected species and (ii) species not targeted by the devices.

Answered by Paul Wheelhouse (21/12/2012):

I refer the member to the answer to question S4W-11729 on 21 December 2012. The Scottish Government are similarly not aware of any independent testing of the impact of these traps on protected species or any non-target species. Scottish Natural Heritage also intend to commission independent research in 2013 to gather objective evidence in this respect.

It is the responsibility of any operator of any trap to ensure that they are not used in such a way so as to likely catch any protected species other than those specified under a specific or general licence. Intentionally or recklessly catching any protected species that is not covered by a specific or general licence is an offence.

Question S4W-11731 To ask the Scottish Government what provision must be made for (a) food, (b) water and (c) shelter for (i) birds and (ii) other animals caught by a (A) Larsen Mate and (B) Elgeeco cage trap before a general licence for its use can be granted.

Answered by Paul Wheelhouse (21/12/2012):

No such provision is currently (or has previously been) made for any animals caught by any trap under the general licence.

Scottish Natural Heritage is proposing to work with practitioners to develop a code of practice for use of traps under general licence during 2013. The Code of Practice will provide detail on trap design and use and will aim to ensure greater clarity about what general licences do and how they are used. It is likely that issues such as this will be covered in the development of the code.

Question S4W-11732 To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on issuing general licences for untested cage traps.

Answered by Paul Wheelhouse (21/12/2012):

Species licensing functions, including the issue of General Licences was delegated to SNH in July 2011.

The general licences list the types of traps that can be used for the purposes set out in the licence. SNH policy is that decisions made about the inclusion or exclusion of certain traps should be evidence-based. Where the available evidence is not available, Scottish Natural Heritage will commission research to provide evidence.

Larsen Mate and Elgeeco cage traps, have been used in Scotland since 2009, and in the absence of any evidence indicating adverse welfare effects, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) believe that it would be disproportionate to prohibit the use of these traps. SNH propose to rigorously and independently test these traps in 2013. If evidence does come to light indicating that they pose unacceptable risks, then any General Licence permitting their use could be revoked at any time.

Question S4W-11733 To ask the Scottish Government whether independent evidence establishing a need to supplement a trap with a (a) Larsen Mate and (b) Elgeeco cage trap is required before a general licence for its use can be granted.

Answered by Paul Wheelhouse (21/12/2012):

No such evidence is required. It is the responsibility of anyone using a general licence to be satisfied that their actions are compliant with the terms of that licence. Scottish Natural Heritage proposes to work with practitioners in 2013 to develop a Code of Practice for use of traps under general licence. The Code of Practice will provide detail on trap design and use and will aim to ensure greater clarity about what general licences do and how they are used. It is likely that issues such as this will be covered in the development of the code.

So, it’s pretty evident that unless there is a legal challenge against the use of clam-type traps (and that may well take place…more on that in the New Year), it is down to us, as concerned members of the public, to find any evidence that these traps pose unacceptable risks to raptors and other species.

SNH say they will be conducting ‘rigorous and independent tests’ on their use in 2013, but they’ve already said they intend to include trap-users in that research. We would argue that this would not equate to independent (nor reliable) research. It’s already known that many trap-users are operating their traps illegally (see the various prosecutions of so-called ‘legal trap users’ over recent years). Nobody in their right mind would accept the views of these users as being trustworthy, let alone independent. It’s appalling that SNH, and the Scottish Government, would consider such an approach as suitable.

We would urge anyone with an interest in seeing clam-type traps banned to pay close attention to any that they find out in the countryside and REPORT THEM. Please see here for details about what to look for and how to report them.

More on this issue in the New Year.

2 thoughts on “Environment Minister answers parliamentary questions on clam traps”

  1. SNH feel the need to carry out research into the risk these traps present. This clearly indicates that they are not certain. Have they got derrugation from the EU for permission to licence the killing of a few EU specially protected species?

    If they are not certain, should they not be following the precautionary principle?

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