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Stealing eggs from an Area of Special Scientific Interest 17 May 2006

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’s Wildlife and Conservation Division has appealed for the public’s help after herring gull eggs were stolen from Langness and Fort Island. These places form part of an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI).

If anyone sees somebody taking gulls’ eggs or offering them for sale, please pass details to the Police and to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry immediately, including vehicle registrations and descriptions.

The Department can be contacted on 842335. The number for Police Headquarters is 631212, or you may contact the CRIMESTOPPERS line on 0800 555 1111.

The bird life of an ASSI is an integral part of its natural features. Designation as an ASSI is to protect those natural features, which are recognised as having particular importance. Anything affecting the balance of nature – such as stealing gulls’ eggs – may damage the ecology of an ASSI for the future.

Herring gull
A herring gull

Historically, the taking of gulls’ eggs was a supplement to a sometimes meagre diet. However, gulls have been a protected species for almost 150 years, and a special licence would have to be obtained to collect their eggs.

In some restricted circumstances, a licence may be issued by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. The landowner’s permission would also be necessary.

Fort Island, or St Michael’s Isle as it is also known, is owned by Manx National Heritage. Under Manx National Heritage Byelaws, the unauthorised taking or disturbing of birds’ eggs or nests on Manx National Heritage land is forbidden. Manx National Heritage has not given permission for taking eggs on its land.

The Department and Manx National Heritage take very seriously any threat from such illegal activity, which undermines efforts to protect the wildlife of the Island.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the population of herring gulls in Britain and Ireland has declined by around 50% during the last 30 years, though the reasons for this decline have not been identified. As it generally has appeared to be common and widespread, the herring gull has not attracted particular conservation action. However, the species is now included in the RSPB’s Birds of Conservation Concern Amber List (medium conservation concern). Most of the population breeds at a small number of sites, so the protection of these colonies is important.

Gulls were first protected in the Island under the Sea Gull Preservation Act 1867, and subsequently by the Protection of Birds Acts 1932 – 1955, before the passing of the Wildlife Act 1990.

The taking and sale of wild birds’ eggs contravenes sections 1 and 6 of the Wildlife Act 1990, unless it is done under a licence from the Wildlife and Conservation Division of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Applications forms are available from the Department’s website (

For further information, please contact –

- the Department’s Wildlife and Conservation Officer, Richard Selman (telephone 842335); or

- Manx National Heritage’s Curator of Natural History, Kate Hawkins (telephone 648000).

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