Dismay as gull cull gets green light

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A mass seagull cull which has been given the green light by a High Court judge was today slammed as “unjustifiable” by bird lovers.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) had taken the decision to a judicial review after BAE Systems successfully applied to carry out the cull, claiming the gulls were a threat to aircraft safety at nearby Warton Aerodrome.

But Mr Justice Mitting, sitting in London, threw out the appeal yesterday giving the go ahead to BAE to shoot 552 pairs of herring gulls, black-backed and lesser black-backed gulls.

Paul Ellis, secretary of the Fylde Bird Club, said: “The cull itself is unjustifiable in our view.

“A lot of black backed gulls are under pressure, the UK is the world headquarters for this gull and we should be looking at preserving them, not killing them off.

“It will reduce the breeding population substantially and presumably the birds will either maintain that level or move somewhere else.

“They’re not stupid and if they know they’re getting shot at they’ll go.”

The Lancashire Wildlife Trust had backed the RSPB’s action to take the fight to the High Court.

Alan Wright, from the Trust, said: “It is very concerning that the Government have agreed to something like this.

“The fewer gulls you’ve got, the more chance you’ve got of interbreeding and then the birds won’t be as strong


“The knee jerk reaction at times seems to be to kill things rather than find alternatives.”

The RSPB says it will now consider appealing against the decision. A spokesman for the organisation said: “This judgment is deeply worrying as we believe it fundamentally misinterprets the law as it relates to protecting birds.

“It is important to stress that the dispute at the centre of this case is not about air safety – the RSPB fully accepts the risk exists and that the cull is necessary, this is about how the Government can sanction the killing of an additional 1,100 lesser black-backed gulls without acknowledging the damaging impact of removing almost a fifth of the breeding population of a species on a protected site.

“The judge appears to condone the Government writing off part of why the Ribble Estuary is important for nature conservation without compensation measures and, as such, sets a deeply disturbing precedent for our most important sites for wildlife – we are urgently looking at our options to appeal this judgment.”

A spokesperson for BAE Systems said: ““We are pleased that the Court has upheld the decision by the Secretary of State to allow the cull of 552 pairs of lesser black-backed gulls and further operations to maintain the population at the reduced level.

“We believe that a reduction in the gull population will reduce the risk of a bird strike incident on or in the vicinity of Warton aerodrome, and therefore will ensure the safety and well-being of local residents, aircrew and


No exact date for the cull has yet been set.