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Farmers voice sea eagles concerns

PUBLISHED: 10:25 10 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:20 06 July 2010

FARMERS and livestock owners in north Suffolk have been taking part in surveys examining the potential effects of releasing sea eagles in the county.

Natural England has proposed introducing the birds of prey along the Suffolk coast and although any possible release date has now been set back until at least 2011, farmers have been getting involved in studies to find out how the project might affect them.

FARMERS and livestock owners in north Suffolk have been taking part in surveys examining the potential effects of releasing sea eagles in the county.

Natural England has proposed introducing the birds of prey along the Suffolk coast and although any possible release date has now been set back until at least 2011, farmers have been getting involved in studies to find out how the project might affect them.

Many farmers feel the area is not appropriate for the release of dozens of the birds because there are many important conservation sites and there are concerns that livestock could become prey for the birds.

In recent weeks, farmers have been meeting scientists from the government's Food and Environmental Research Agency (FERA) to look at how farming methods might be able to be changed to limit any predation by the eagles.

Nicola Currie, eastern region director for the Country, Land and Business Association (CLA), said: “They met pig, poultry, sheep and coarse fishing farmers in Suffolk to look at how mitigation measures could work and how farmers might adjust their farming methods if the eagles were to be introduced.

“We spent hours showing the scientists round the various types of farm and they've now gone away to write a report for Natural England.”

She said that although looking at mitigation measures was a step in the right direction, the farmers were disappointed to find that the research did not consider the potential economic impacts of livestock being spooked by the birds.

“It was purely to look at whether physical actions can be put in place, like planting more trees to stop the eagles landing nearby. There was no economic consideration.

“The farming community is still very concerned and we are still hoping that a full impact assessment will be carried out.”

A spokesman for Natural England said that in other areas of Europe where sea eagles live, there is little evidence to show that they have any economic impact on farmers and they have, in fact, been beneficial to local tourism.

She said: “The proposal has received a good deal of support from the public and from some farmers, but a number of farmers have expressed concerns over the effect the release of the birds might have on their livestock.

“FERA are now looking at ways in which these risks can be reduced with the help of feedback from local farmers. As part of their work, FERA visited various farms in Suffolk last week to listen to farmers' concerns and convened a workshop to discuss the types of mitigation measures that could be successfully employed to reduce the risks of any conflict.”

FERA are due to make their recommendations by the end of the month and further consultation will be carried out later this year.

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