Union Calls for Action on White-Tailed Sea Eagles

NFU Scotland urges NatureScot for substantive action to be delivered to protect vulnerable livestock from predators.

As members of the National Sea Eagle Stakeholder Panel and representing farmers and crofters who have endured, in some cases, decades of predation by white-tailed eagles (WTE), NFU Scotland does not believe enough is being done to address key issues and deliver the White-tailed Eagle Action Plan led by NatureScot.  This week the Union has formally written to NatureScot demanding that a meaningful suite of actions is rolled out across the areas that continue to be severely impacted by WTE predation.

Martin Kennedy, NFU Scotland President said; “When the joint agreement with NatureScot and NFU Scotland was reached in 2014 promising action on white-tailed eagles most farmers and crofters put their faith in it and were optimistic that through careful management of the white-tailed eagle population there would be a balanced, sustainable environment to enable and support both agricultural activity as well as the white-tailed eagles.  Our members are frustrated by the lack of progress to date particularly in relation to the management of the birds – we need urgent delivery and implementation of key actions.

“We have learned much about the birds’ predation behaviour through the WTE monitor farms with NatureScot overseeing mitigation trials to try and reduce livestock loss with limited success.  NatureScot now needs to apply this knowledge in actively trying to reduce the level of predation on some of the impacted farms and crofts.”

In its letter to NatureScot, NFU Scotland highlighted the key elements of the Action Plan that need to be prioritised and progressed under the framework of the revised White-tailed Eagle Action Plan 2021-2024.

The Union also expressed its disappointment and concern that some members of the National Sea Eagle Stakeholder Group have undermined the collaborative work of the Group by repeatedly glossing over the fact, based on hard evidence from agreed findings, that in places white-tailed eagles continue to cause significant agricultural damage through predation.  It reiterated that it is the responsibility of all of the Group to better communicate the very real impacts of white-tailed eagles have on so many farms and crofts across a vast swathe of Scotland.

Adding to his comment Martin Kennedy said; “We are looking to NatureScot to demonstrate genuine commitment to making the necessary progress for farmers and crofters living with white-tailed eagles and we remain determined to support where we can.”

Notes to Editors:

The Union’s letter to NatureScot highlighted the following key elements of the Action Plan to be prioritised and progressed.

  1. Routine, transparent, annual monitoring and recording of population levels of white-tailed eagles (nesting pairs, mature and juvenile birds) throughout Scotland, with a particular focus in areas where unacceptable impacts on livestock are being experienced.
  2. Assessment of the sustainable population levels of white-tailed eagles in impacted areas with the aim, through active management actions, to limit numbers to levels the wild food sources can sustain without impacting on domestic livestock or livelihoods.
  3. NFUS believe a framework should be in place where support and control measures are in place to help disperse or remove birds where failure to maintain population numbers results in preventable loss to livestock or wildlife. In the population forecast paper published in 2016 it clearly shows that there is scope to remove a certain number of birds every year without effecting the viability and continued rise of the WTE's population. This information should be part of the decision-making process in considering licensed activity to control birds in problem areas.
  4. NFUS needs to see NatureScot start to carry out Environmental Impact Assessments on the impact of WTE on other protected species, prey and competing species to help arrive at agreed population levels, which can be adjusted as ongoing monitoring delivers more information.
  5. NatureScot must determine the “value” of a nesting pair of WTE to inform their work and that of Scottish Government when determining future agri-environment schemes.
  6. The Action plan to date has looked at the impacts these birds are having on flocks and has trialled mitigation options to reduce the damage experienced. The progress seen on the ground of these efforts has been limited, with farmers and crofters continuing to lose lambs with some experiencing substantial impacts on their flocks.

    Licensable actions on birds which habitually target livestock now need to be a more accessible option. NatureScot need to develop the guidance they required to be able to assess licence applications for an escalating range of licensed interventions, including nest tree removal, egg manipulation -including oiling and chick removal, adult removal and relocation and, as last resort, to humanely kill problem birds.  The guidance needs to inform their licensing officers assess licence applications and provide clear guidance to farmers and crofters about the information they are required to provide for a licence application to be considered. The level of information may vary with circumstance, but some clear bars must be set to avoid moving goal posts.
  7. This licencing work is a key priority for NFUS members, and it is important that NatureScot are provided with sufficient recourses to complete this work and be able to report to report back on license tests to the stakeholder groups by the end of August 2021.
  8. NatureScot must be able to provide unbiased support for the examination of farm records where a farmer or crofter wishes to establish if they have suffered serious agricultural damage due to the impact of white-tailed eagle predation. They should be able to advise the farmer what records he would require and the best course of action, including options for licensed activities.
  9. NatureScot have done extensive trials and monitoring of mitigation efforts to try and stop predation, with limited effect, on the monitor farms over the last four years.

    NFUS expects that where it has been demonstrated that serious agricultural damage is occurring, any agreed actions to prevent further damage are carried out in short order, and not over a lengthy period of time as in the monitor farm project, before licensed activities can be considered.
  10. NFUS believes that white-tailed eagles, like other species, form common habits in relationship to livestock predation, we would require NatureScot have in place a basic template for licence applications for each of the escalating actions to avoid the resource consuming writing up of a licence proposal from scratch for every individual white-tailed eagle.
  11. NFUS requires that where licences are issued for any active management of white-tailed eagles, NatureScot must protect the identity of the applicant, for their own safety, and where possible have NatureScot employed contractors carry out the work.
  12. NFUS accepts that good progress has been made in recognising that white-tailed eagles do take viable lambs but that more could be done to publicly recognise the effects on the mental wellbeing of those whose flocks have been severely impacted by white-tailed eagle predation. Control measures will always be controversial for the public but some recognition of the full emotional impact of the damage they cause will help foster a greater level of understanding from the public.


Contact Diana McGowan on 07920 018619

Author: Diana McGowan

Date Published:

News Article No.: 63/21

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