David Ross
Highland Correspondent

PEACE has broken out in a long-running dispute between crofters, farmers
and conservations over whether sea eagles are now killing lambs.

Crofters and farmers have argued that they are losing out financially due
to livestock killings by the birds, which were first reintroduced to
Scotland in 1975 after being hunted to extinction in the early 20th century.

The Government wildlife agency Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) had claimed
such deaths were rare occurrences.

But now SNH has accepted that Britain’s largest bird of prey is indeed
killing lambs more often than thought, and not just taking dead ones.

And farmers say they recognise that sea eagles are here to stay and are an
important part of Scotland’s biodiversity.

NFU Scotland has also committed itself to working with SNH and others to
find ways of reducing any impacts of sea eagles on farming and crofting

The development will lead to the continuation of the Sea Eagle Management
Scheme, compensating farmers and crofters for the effect on their stock of
the raptors.

The project, which ended recently, is expected to be back in place by
spring 2015, subject to funding approval from SNH and the Scottish Government.

A study in the Gairloch area of Wester Ross for the agency in 2009 found
less than two per cent of deaths amongst lambs could be attributed to sea

But those working the land had the evidence of their own eyes. One crofter
on Skye said he kept “an almost sacrificial stock” of poorer sheep on the
hill to stop the sea eagles coming lower down for healthier lambs.

Meanwhile in the Outer Isles there were reports that the birds known as
“flying barn doors” were not just attacking lambs, but were killing larger
stock such as hoggs, the stage between lambs and sheep.

But a new joint statement of intent on balancing the needs of sheep farmers
and crofters with the conservation of sea eagles has now been announced by
SNH and NUF Scotland.

This will now be developed through the Sea Eagle Scheme Steering Panel and
new local stakeholder groups.

Stakeholder groups covering the main sea eagle areas are expected to be set
up by November.

These will initially cover Mull, North Argyll and Lochaber; Skye and
Lochalsh; and Gairloch and Wester Ross.

The steering panel will develop proposals for sheep, sea eagle and habitat
management measures. A Sea Eagle Action Plan will also be published by
September 2016 and implemented by March 2017

Environment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “Sea eagles
are a magnificent species of bird and are a valuable part of our Scotland’s
biodiversity and we know, from the economic impact on Mull, that sea eagles
can have an important part to play in our economy.

“However, we also recognise that there have been concerns in some farming
quarters that they are having an effect on lamb production.”

NFUS president Nigel Miller said: “Today’s agreement with SNH is a lot more
than a commitment of two organisations to collaborate. It is a significant
milestone towards understanding and managing Scotland’s sea eagle population.

“To secure vital progress, the partnership must ensure that the process is
inclusive and takes account of farmers’ and crofters’ views and experiences.

“Collaboration will provide the foundations for a programme that minimises
lamb losses and safeguards sheep flocks whilst also underpinning a
sustainable sea eagle population.”

SNH chairman Ian Ross said: “We recognise there are some concerns over the
impact of sea eagles, but we are committed to working closely with NFU
Scotland and its members to help tackle these challenges.

“It is also important to recognise the economic benefits that sea eagles
bring to tourism, particularly to rural areas, while acknowledging that in
some cases, sea eagles have taken live lambs.

“We are working closely with farmers and crofters to minimise the conflict
between the birds and their impact on livestock.”

SAS Volunteer

We publish content from 3rd party sources for educational purposes. We operate as a not-for-profit and do not make any revenue from the website. If you have content published on this site that you feel infringes your copyright please contact: webmaster@scotlandagainstspin.org to have the appropriate credit provided or the offending article removed.


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *