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Monday, 20 June 2011

Should we continue to turn a blind eye to this annual slaughter (GANNET destruction on Sula Sgeir)

Permission is given on an annual basis for islanders in the Outer Hebrides to catch, kill and slaughter 2,500 young NORTHERN GANNETS per summer on the remote island of Sula Sgeir, 40 miles NNW of the Butt of Lewis, Lewis. The young birds are killed, boiled, salted and smoked and then offered for sale around the island of Lewis for around just £12 per bird.

If this were not bad enough in itself (and it makes my blood boil that this continues in this day and age), the islanders responsible for the carnage are now lobbying to increase their annual take by a further 1,000 birds per year.

Instead of killing innocent Ruddy Ducks and Monk Parakeets, perhaps this current Lib-Con government could take time to review the certificates given out for this annual carnage. There seems to be a legal loophole in UK and EU Law that they are exploiting and no-one seems to have the will to do anything about it.

Almost 85% of the European population of Gannet breeds in Wales, Northern Britain and Scotland, with St Kilda in the same archipelago harbouring the WORLD'S largest population of this seabird - almost 60,000 breeding pairs. We have three other gannetries exceeding 20,000 paitrs

Yes, the lobbyists may argue that Gannets are continuing to do well and increase despite their 'cull' but under what pretense are they still being hunted - is there not enough food to go round on Lewis? Ban this slaughter NOW

Lee Evans

SULA SGEIR GANNETRY ACTUALLY IN DECLINE

Martin Collinson responded by saying

Paper in British Birds (Wanless S, Murray S, Harris MP. 2005. The status of Northern Gannet in Britain and Ireland in 2003/4. Brit Birds 98: 280-294) dealt with this and other issues. Upshot is that the Sula Sgeir colony stands in stark contrast to all other gannet colonies around our coasts because it has shown a substantial decrease in numbers rather than the expected increase. 33,690 young were taken between 1985 and 2001 and it is likely that other chicks are lost due to the prolonged disturbance associated with the hunt. The harvest represents about 30% of the annual production of chicks at this colony and is the only identifiable reason why the colony would be doing so poorly. As the number of licences remains stable while the number of chicks declines, the implication is that the hunt is not sustainable.

As I understand it, licensing for this is under control of the Scottish government and SNH. The SNP government is apparently OK with the cull (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/aug/25/scotland-hebrides-gannet-hunt ) and the more it gets English people annoyed the more they will support it

Martin Collinson. Reader in Biomedical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, School of Medical Sciences, Institute of Medical Sciences, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD