New sea eagle ‘management plan’ on the cards

wte-mike-watsonIn January this year, the National Farmers’ Union (Scotland) called for ‘action’ against Scottish sea eagles, and although they weren’t explicit about what that ‘action’ might be, they did mention [unspecified] ‘control measures’ (see here).

SNH responded quite strongly by saying ‘no’ to control measures (see here).

In February, a former Crofting Commission rep said that “Nothing short of complete eradication will do” and that sea eagles “should be absolutely destroyed” (see here).

In May, NFUS launched its ‘Sea Eagle Action Plan’, which laid out the usual unsubstantiated accusations that sea eagles are responsible for a loss of biodiversity and have detrimental effects on golden eagles, mountain hares, lapwings, curlews, black grouse, otters and rabbits, and of course, sheep farming. For a species that they claimed to know so much about, it was quite surprising to see the front cover of their report – it was apparent they couldn’t even tell the difference between a golden and a white-tailed eagle (see here).

A couple of days ago, it was reported (sensibly here and here but with a hysteria-mongering headline here) that NFUS and SNH had signed a joint accord to work towards a new ‘Sea Eagle Management Scheme’. This will include a new scheme to start in Spring 2015 to compensate farmers and crofters for loss of stock to eagles (a continuation of a previous scheme) subject to funding approval, and the development of a new sea eagle ‘action plan’ to be published by September 2016 and implemented by March 2017.

Whilst it’s encouraging that NFUS and SNH have agreed to work cooperatively, we can’t help but be suspicious of the term ‘management scheme’. What does that mean, exactly? We often hear the term ‘well-managed grouse moor’ used to describe practices that include the systematic eradication of all predators, just so there are more grouse for the guns to kill. That’s not our definition of ‘well-managed’. The term ‘management’ was also used by DEFRA when it tried to implement its controversial ‘Buzzard Management Scheme’ a couple of years ago – in that case, ‘management’ meant removing buzzards so that there were more pheasants for the guns to kill.

Hmm. Hopefully the NFUS and SNH are not planning on ‘removing’ sea eagles as a ‘management’ strategy (the NFUS has previously suggested this could be an option). At least for now, the NFUS has stated that ‘management’ in this case does not mean shooting the eagles (see the BBC report).

The BBC’s report on the new accord does reveal some of the proposed management strategies. One of them is this:

‘Contractors will also be available, free of charge, to record incidents of eagle predation and to offer advice on how to scare away the birds’.

That doesn’t seem to have been thought through very well. The sea eagle  has extra special protection as it’s listed on Schedule 1A of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) – that means it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly harass this species at any time of year, not just when it’s close to or on its nest (see here). The NFUS and SNH will need to be very careful indeed if they’re planning on ‘scaring away’ sea eagles.

Thankfully, not everyone shares the NFUS’ view of sea eagles. The Mull Eagle Watch Project (based around the island’s thriving sea eagle population) has just been awarded VisitScotland’s prestigious 5 star Wildlife Experience rating for the third year running (see here). Congratulations to all involved.

White-tailed eagle photo by Mike Watson

12 thoughts on “New sea eagle ‘management plan’ on the cards”

  1. That´s it. If they´re going to kill sea-eagle´s that´s the final straw. Now I´m veganist too. No Lamm-Flesh EVER. Raptors can only exist in a healthy environment, but if the sheepfarmers and grouseguys want to live in a pet-zoo-world, I say NO. Have they gone completely bananas? Apart from all the love for the earth: Tourists go to Schotland not only because of sheep- and grousefarms, but also for the wildlife. Wildlife: Animals who live NATURALLY, not ´managed´ in some sterile hills. What´s next: airbrush-painted heather, because the *** plant only flowers in august? Do you know Avaaz? Could you launch a petition there?

      1. Thanks. Well, you could visit me on facebook. German Browncoalindustry is digging up an area, which includes about 10 villages, in my neighborhood. No one is even talking there about the loss of hen or Montagu´s harriers, because the whole landscape is eliminated. I ´m making visible WHAT is lost, but I can´t impress much people. The fear of running out of electricity is bigger than the fear of living in a moon-like landscape. Rheinbraun is powerful, they´ve got a good PR. I´m Dutch, so I´m not so impressed by them. Dad worked 20 years for the Dutch black-coal-mining industry and died with tubes in his throat. If we´re unlucky, the whole area around Mönchengladbach (G) is going to be radioactive within 40 years, including the common kestrels, peregrine falcons and common buzzards. The rough legged buzzards and lesser spotted eagle´s will simply disappear together with the harriers. I published pictures of the disappearing villages under ´Last chance to see´ (twittered Stephen Fry about this). Bye, Caroline Dormans

  2. Quote:
    “NFUS launched its ‘Sea Eagle Action Plan’, which laid out the usual unsubstantiated accusations that sea eagles are responsible for a loss of biodiversity and have detrimental effects on golden eagles, mountain hares, lapwings, curlews, black grouse, otters and rabbits, and of course, sheep farming.”

    If that’s the case then they should include the gamekeepers as nothing short of complete eradication will do in their case, get rid of them and the major cause of moorland habitat destruction and wildlife losses will be greatly reduced if not eliminated. It will also go a long way towards putting a stop to the out of hand Raptor persecution. A big reduction in the number of over subsidised sheep crofters will also help to alleviate the problem of sheep losses, not to mention it would also be a big help in the recovery of the Golden Eagles and Sea Eagles that they had a big hand in reducing in the first place. Why should SNH include a new scheme to start in Spring 2015 to compensate farmers and crofters for loss of stock to eagles, they already receive public funded subsidies for what amounts in many cases to be a total waste of money, in any case it won’t stop them killing Eagles, it’s what they’ve been brought up to do, just the same as they must burn the moor every year at the start of the nesting season because it’s what they do. Don’t get me going on crofters !!!

  3. money talks…we have to hope that the eagles bring in so much money to the local economy (I heard they’re nicknamed ‘golden’ eagles due to the cash brought in to Mull) that they’ll be left well alone. Surely, if WTSE hunt mountain hares then the huntin/shootin/killin folk would see them as an asset??

  4. So Sea Eagles seem to generate 5 mi;;ion a year for the local economy. That sounds pretty good and I expect the costs incurred are pretty low. Why are some other areas / populations so blinkered to the benefits of promoting a diverse eco system to attract tourists.

    “Come to the Black Isle, Scotland’s prime raptor persecution centre” How about that for a tourist board strapline?

  5. In order to maximise maximum living livestock, how about rehoming humans who inhabit the vicinity of the high moorland habitat ? Oh yes…..sorry…of course theyve tried that already.

  6. There will be no eagles destroyed by any agreement, an absolute uproar would occur, they are a valuable visitor attraction. Perhaps a few scarecrows on the lambing fields would help, .
    On heather burning, no keeper would consider late burning, once April comes that is it, grouse are breeding.
    The same ground cannot be burned every year . It takes a few years to become very tall, grouse need a mixture of various sizes, tall stuff to nest and roost in ,short succulent heather shoots to feed on, and the long stuff to feed on when the snow comes, the strips create more grouse territorys, waders also benefit from the shorter heather, ideal nesting ground, and like it or not usually very safe from crows and foxes, if only….. they would leave our much loved raptors alone….

    1. keen birder, If you believe all that then all I can say is you don’t get out much. Eagles are already being killed regularly and there is no uproar, except perhaps on this blog. The moorlands are burned annually even into May by crofters in the far north and nothing is done to stop it. There are vast areas of moorland that were strip burned more than 20 years ago and the heather has still not regrown. As for ideal nesting ground, for what, a few pipits and an odd Skylark, the majority is virtually devoid of waders and definitely very few or no Raptors. Oh, I forgot, the grouse seem to be doing OK at the expense of the rest of the moorland wildlife and the environment.

      1. Hi nirofo, I meant killing by some sort of official legal agreement, im well aware of illegal killing. The burning that you mention cannot surely be on a moor keepered for grouse, if so then it will have not benefitted them at all, normally heather has a good re growth in about 2–3 years, with the young pioneer heather which is grouse like to eat, grouse down here are on eggs in late April so theres no way a keeper would burn it,
        good point, get rid of the keepers and that’s what could happen, no one then to give a care for grouse, land it would be in the hands of sheep farmers, crofters and foretsers, it doesn’t sound so good in the far North ,come down to County Durham and youll see plenty of lapwing, skylark and other birds breeding on the moors, no eagles or harriers though.

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