Natural England has today [Thursday 30 January] set out changes to licences for the lethal control of herring gulls and lesser black-backed gulls in England to protect these declining species.
Owing to their poor conservation status, herring gulls and lesser black-backed gulls were not included in Defra’s general licences issued last year. The breeding population of herring gull has fallen by 60% in recent decades, with lesser black-backed gulls declining by an estimated 48%.
Assessment carried out by Natural England has since indicated that the scale of activity carried out under licences in recent years is above a sustainable level. Continued activity at these levels is likely to have a harmful impact on the population levels of both species.
For this reason, it is necessary to scale back the lethal control of these gull species. In rural areas, where populations overall are known to be in decline, Natural England will set upper ‘safe’ number of birds that could be killed. Upper ‘safe’ levels have not been identified for lethal control in urban populations of gulls, as these are faring better.