Farmers have been urged to share their thoughts on the introduction of sea eagles in the Isle of Wight following concern the recent release may result in a widespread release across the UK.
National Sheep Association (NSA) chief executive Phil Stocker said although the release was currently only considered a local event, if successful could result in white-tailed sea eagles being distributed across the UK ‘with no real discussion or engagement with the farming community’.
He urged farmers to respond to the association’s farmer facing survey.
Mr Stocker said: “The birds are already present and growing in number in Scotland following a staged release over the last 40 years, and it is clear that current policy and regulatory approaches are not leading to harmonious relationships.”
Six young birds sourced from Scotland’s populations were released on the Isle of Wight mid-August, but fears are circulating that the birds are unlikely to stay there and could, if the release succeeds, spread across significant areas of England and Wales.
NSA formally opposed the release on the grounds that the reported decline in biodiversity and species abundance would result in the birds being driven to predate on lambs and other non-typical food sources.
Now the licence has been granted and the birds released, NSA is working with the project team and Natural England to help mitigate problems and ‘try to identify harmonious regulatory and practical approaches’.
Mr Stocker said: “The conditions of the licence stipulate monitoring and evaluation and the project team are keen to broaden this beyond what they are required to do and are very keep to work with the farming community and understand attitudes and experiences.
“NSA is keen to engage with sheep farmers across the country to gather views on the white-tailed sea eagle on the basis that the birds should not end up as a resident species across the UK without proper consultation.
“Although the licence has already been granted and the release has gone ahead, the very localised consultation and engagement process being done on the island and surrounding areas is not sufficient when the spread of these birds will go much further.”
To respond to the survey, which will be live until September 9, click here.