West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas says there are a number of ways to deal with the ongoing problem of nuisance seagulls that do not involve a cull but called for the Government to provide stronger leadership in supporting local councils.
Speaking at a Westminster debate, Mr Thomas said there was “no shortage” of incidents involving seagulls in conflict with humans in his West Cornwall and highlighted the case last summer of an 18-year-old girl who was airlifted to hospital having fallen off the harbour wall in St Ives because of an incident involving a seagull and an ice cream.
He argued that there was considerable ‘human responsibility’ in creating the problem of large numbers of seagulls scavenging for food on the streets of seaside towns and suggested a number of ways the seagull population in towns could be controlled.
Citing Mousehole as a place where there is a particular problem, he said: “We really must stop feeding seagulls.
“There are some really lovely people who think that they are caring for these beautiful birds, but actually they are not being caring at all.
“We need to get the message out that feeding seagulls is not good for all concerned—including the seagulls themselves.”
Other ideas he proposed included councils ensuring better security for bins, looking at providing contraceptives for seagulls and also considering the idea of removing eggs.
Recalling his apprenticeship in the building trade when he spent a lot of time creating net and wire hazards to deter seagulls from settling in certain locations, Mr Thomas said: “I used to go up on high street roofs—mainly those of banks.
“A colleague of mine would have a yard broom and would wave away the seagulls that were intent on knocking me off the roof because I was removing their eggs. Removing eggs was the only way that we could control the problem back then."
Mr Thomas called for “leadership from Government, support for councils and local communities and an honest debate not about how we cull and get rid of seagulls, but how we keep communities safe, protect coastal communities and tourism and encourage these magnificent birds to return to their natural environment."
Responding, DEFRA Minister Dr Therese Coffey insisted that “current legislation provides sufficient powers to take appropriate action to tackle the problems caused by gulls”.
“It provides a range of methods that those authorised can use to manage birds humanely, and it permits population control, nest clearance and egg control.
“While there are no provisions within current legislation to allow the control of birds specifically for the purpose of relieving nuisance or damage to property, the legislation allows for the control or disturbance of certain wild birds for particular reasons.
“Those most relevant to urban gull issues are 'if such action is taken in the interest of public health and safety, or to prevent disease'.”