New call for people to stop feeding the gulls

Berwick councillors agree that steps must be taken to control the town's burgeoning gull population.

Thursday, 2nd March 2017, 7:31 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 9:50 am
Seagulls in Golden Square after breaking into a bin to steal bread
Seagulls in Golden Square after breaking into a bin to steal bread

The issue hit the national headlines last month when MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan spoke of locals ‘wandering the streets’ with their own firearms to kill the birds.

While members of Berwick Town Council believe these were isolated incidents that did not merit the sensationalist headlines which followed, they acknowledge that the ‘problem’ must be addressed.

Cllr Alex Gibson suggested a hawk could be flown around the town to frighten the birds away.

“I know there are people against it but the hawk will not damage the gulls. It’s just to frighten them and get them back where they belong on the cliffs.

However, the majority felt environmental measures such as better bins and more street cleaning could help to improve the situation.

Most important, they felt, was new signage calling on residents and visitors alike to stop feeding the birds.

Cllr Paul Hodgson said: “While it was very good of our local MP to raise this in the national press and show such an interest, the real issue is that seagulls feed on food waste and the food waste in this town is tremendous.

“We need to concentrate on supporting the local service which clean up this town and making sure that service is maintained, whether through re-employment or partnership, and ensuring the funding is there for the NEAT team to clean up the town.”

Cllr Hazel Bettison added: “I know we are a seaside town but there have been members of the public attacked.

“I have seen a little girl attacked while carrying a sausage roll and that was frightening.”

CllrAnne Forbes said people should be fined for feeding the birds.

“We need to take a stance on this,” she said.

Cllr Gibson suggested the council should look to invest in gull-proof bins, like in Seahouses.

Cllr Georgina Hill said: “Our MP has highlighted a problem we have known for years. Our bins sit full all evening, spewing out rubbish. But dealing with the seagulls is not a simple solution.

“Personally, I think dog fouling is a bigger issue and seagulls are more preferable to a lot of the people.

“Berwick is not full of loons shooting seagulls. Those were isolated incidents.”

Cllr Eric Goodyer said: “One of the gulls shot and killed was in our garden and we hand-reared its three chicks for about 12 weeks.

“The cause of the problem is us. Global warming has resulted in substantial changes in the nature of fish stocks in the seas around us. As the seas are warming, sandeels, which arethe major source of food for a lot of seabirds, have moved north.

“Having trashed their environment, we then happily provide them with lots of snacks in the streets and they are going to take that for an easy life. Let’s stop throwing our food waste in the street.”

Cllr Brian Parkin said the problem was shared by other seaside towns and none had come up with a solution.

The council will discuss it further at a future meeting.