NSA launches a UK-wide survey on sea eagle release

The National Sheep Association (NSA) has opened a farmer-facing survey to gather views on the introduction of sea eagles in the Isle of Wight following the release in recent weeks.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “While this release may currently be considered a local event, if successful, it could result in White-Tailed Sea Eagles being widespread across the UK with no real discussion or engagement with the farming community.

“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.”

The release on the Isle of Wight commenced in mid-August with six young birds sourced from Scotland’s populations.

The NSA formally opposed the release on the grounds that the widely reported decline in biodiversity and species abundance will result in the birds being driven to predate on lambs and other non-typical food sources.

However, now the licence has been granted, it has agreed to work with the project team and Natural England to help them mitigate problems and to try to identify harmonious regulatory and practical approaches.

Stocker explained: “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 keen to work with the farming community and understand attitudes and experiences.”

Potential to spread

The NSA warns that while the White-Tailed Sea Eagle release and the majority of the consultation process is being conducted on the Isle of Wight, it is accepted by those involved in the release that the birds are unlikely to stay there.

If the release succeeds, it claims the birds could spread across significant areas of England and Wales.

Stocker added: “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.”

The survey can be carried out at: surveymonkey.co.uk/r/sea-eagle-release.