Speaking up for seagulls

A CONSERVATION volunteer has launched a campaign to try and change the public’s negative perception of gulls.

Carol Knott, a volunteer Campaign Champion for the RSPB, says she wants to raise awareness of the plight of seabirds in the south east.

But she may have her work cut out convincing Rye traders who are constantly having to clean their shop fronts of gull’s mess and hoteliers whose guests are woken by the birds screaming during the early hours of the morning.

Rye Town Council is currently conducting a survey into the number of litter bind in the town and litter caused by gulls raiding bins and pecking open bin bags. There have been calls for more seagull-proof bins and the council has advised people not to encourage the birds by feeding them.

Carol Knott’s efforts to improve the image of Herring Gulls is part of the wildlife charity’s Marine Campaign, which aims to make sure seabirds are given suitable legal protection after they were virtually forgotten in the Government’s plans to set up protected areas for marine wildlife.

She said, “I feel very strongly about the Marine Campaign. I live near the sea, so the issue is close to my heart.

“But one of the big challenges of this campaign is overcoming the perception that seabirds are annoying and that there are plenty of them, and showing that they urgently need our help.

“When I’m trying to gather signatures for the marine campaign and I explain that Herring Gulls are declining, some people say ‘No they’re not, there are plenty where I live!’

“While it’s true that there are now more Herring Gulls in urban areas, partly attracted by easy access to food in bins and rubbish dumps, their numbers have declined overall, especially in their natural, coastal habitats.”

“I can understand why some people find gulls annoying,” Carol Knott added. “But they belong by the sea - they’re an integral part of that environment.

“If they’re not surviving, that also sends a warning about the wider marine environment, which also supports fish, dolphins, coral, and of course the vast number of people around the world who depend on seafood.”

One Rye trader, who asked not to be named, said: “The gulls really are a menace, I am forever having to clean my windows and shop entrance. As soon as you finish you have to start again.”

John Izod, from Rye said: “Seagulls can be a real nuisance and there are people who have been dive-bombed by them.”