NSA launches UK-wide survey to capture farmer views on sea eagle release

19th August 2019

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 comments: “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. NSA formally opposed the release because 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, NSA 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. 

Mr Stocker explains: “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.” 

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 and could, if the release succeeds, spread across significant areas of England and even Wales (the birds already being present in Scotland).

Mr Stocker adds: “NSA is keen to engage with sheep farmers across the country to gather views on the white-tailed sea eagle on the basis that the birds should not end up as a resident species across the in the UK without proper consultation. 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.” 

NSA would like to gather views to inform the monitoring and evaluation work of this project and is inviting farmers to spend a few minutes responding to these questions available at www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/sea-eagle-release