Friday, August 14, 2015

Drones to be used against Seagulls?

No, this is not a "silly season" spoof and we are not talking about Predator drones or any similar weapon-firing drones, but chemical sprayers.

The News and Star reports here that Trouville-sur-Mer in Normandy, northern France, has tested the use of chemical sprayer drones to discourage seagulls and there are calls to look at doing the same thing in Whitehaven.

Flying “anti-seagull” drones were used in France to effectively sterilise seagull eggs using the same chemicals used in egg oiling, a process that prevents chicks from hatching.

Drones would alleviate the need for people to move physically close to nests to coat the eggs and could increase the number of eggs sterilised.

Pascale Cordier, Trouville's deputy mayor in charge of the environment, said of seagulls there,

“They are profoundly changing their living habits from eating fish and building nests on cliffs to living in towns and becoming carnivorous as it is much easier to find food.a town in France."

This is one of the options it is suggested could be looked at by Copeland  Borough Council or Whitehaven Town Council do address the problem with aggressive Herring gulls in Whitehaven and other parts of West Cumbria.

Councillor Graham Roberts says that if drones were a cost effective way to counter the gull menace then they could be used in Whitehaven.

He said: “We’ll be looking at it in depth in our next council meeting where there ought to be a good turnout, we hope to get a hold of this seagull problem which is driving people out of the town.

“If drones are a cost effective way to deal with the seagulls then they will be used.

“Drones are not our only option, we’re looking at a range of suggestions of which drones are one.”

There is a concern that the gulls are affecting the town's tourism and hospitality industries.

Mr Roberts said: “Whitehaven’s a nice place to come, it’s not expensive, it’s just been landscaped but these seagulls are a problem.

“People don’t want to sit outside for fear of being targeted by these seagulls, I’ve had to stand in a doorway to eat a sausage roll because the seagulls were being so aggressive.”

I used to represent the same ward which elected Graham earlier this year and if what people said to me is anything to go by there will be plenty of people who support this, but I know it will not be universally popular. For example France’s League for the Protection of Birds filed a complaint with French aviation authorities, which have ordered Trouville to temporarily stop using the drone.

I would not bet against a similar legal action from the RSPB, but to be honest, I am not convinced that using drones to lay chemicals which stop eggs hatching would be less humane than any other method of keeping the herring gull population under control - and far more so than some.

Of course the main thing we need to do, in the interests of humans and gulls, is to stop herring gulls associating humans with food. That means effective action to stop people feeding the gulls and make sure food waste is disposed of responsibly.


Having discussed the matter with members of CBC, I'm advised that it would need a change in the law in Britain to use drones in this way.

I think there is a case for considering that, but in the meantime Copeland and other councils with this problem should proceed with the measures which can be taken now. And as I said above, the first thing to do is to tighten up on waste disposal & anti litter campaigns and to educate people not to feed the birds.


Anonymous said...

You got there in the end - the problem is people not the birds, perhaps we should be poisoning them.

Chris Whiteside said...

I'd prefer not to poison people or herring gulls, but we do need to take more effective action.