BirdWatch Ireland position in relation to gulls in Balbriggan

12th May 2017

BirdWatch Ireland is very concerned with the granting of a derogation by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to allow community groups in Balbriggan to remove the nests and eggs of three gull species for a one year period starting May 1st this year.  This action is designed to reduce the number of gulls nesting on buildings in the town and effectively prevent the gulls from breeding successfully.  The three gull species listed are the Lesser Black-backed Gull, the Great Black-backed Gull and the Herring Gull.  We are particularly concerned about the potential impacts of this derogation to the Herring Gull which is red listed as a species of Conservation Concern in Ireland following a 90% decline in its Irish population.  There is no evidence that the other two species nest in the town and we presume the derogation is extended to include them as their nests are often indistinguishable from each other. 

Adult Herring Gull (Photo: Michael Finn)
Adult Herring Gull
(Photo: Michael Finn)

Derogations from the legal protections afforded to all wild birds under the European Union Birds Directive are allowable under Article 9 under specific conditions including ‘where there is no satisfactory alternative solution’.  In relation to this derogation we are awaiting detail from the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs on what alternative solutions were considered, tried or tested, as well as on other matters relating to the decision.

The most recent survey work on gulls in Ireland was conducted in 2002. The State is overdue the commissioning of a repeat survey to determine if there have been any changes to the population of Herring Gull and other gull species and in their distribution.  A survey of the population of gulls in Balbriggan, as well as scientific analysis of any issues relating to gull behaviour in the town, should be conducted before any action is undertaken in order to ensure that there is no impact on Herring Gulls at a population level. Removing the eggs and nests of the gulls will do nothing to solve the perceived problems in Balbriggan. 

Meanwhile students from Loreto Secondary School in Balbriggan are calling on the minister to reconsider her action since they feel a longer term, science-based and more humane solution is required. The Irish Times interviewed the students and reported on this story here.

Media Point of Contact: Dr. Stephen Newton, Seabird Conservation Officer (086-3214162) and Oonagh Duggan Acting Head of Policy, Communications and People Engagement (086-8893990)

For more information about Herring Gulls in Ireland, please see our Species Focus article on the species which was included in the Summer 2017 issue of Wings magazine (PDF: 608KB).

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