Monday 23 April 2018

Cull of seagulls urged to halt beach contamination

Seagulls have become a major issue in recent years on Merrion Strand, according to local councillor Paddy McCartan. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Seagulls have become a major issue in recent years on Merrion Strand, according to local councillor Paddy McCartan. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

David Kearns

A councillor has said he is in favour of a cull of seagulls after their droppings have been blamed for polluting a popular beach in South Dublin.

"These gulls have become a major issue in recent years," said Dublin City Council's Paddy McCartan.

"Given the scale of the damage they've caused, and could continue to cause, I would support any efforts to reduce their numbers.

"If they're contaminating the water then I would definitely be in favour of a cull," he said.

Bird droppings were listed as one of the reasons for the Environmental Protection Agency to brand Merrion Strand as 'poor' in its latest 'Bathing Water Quality' report.

It is one of six Irish beaches to receive the substandard rating.

Youghal Front Strand in Cork, Galway's Ballyloughane beach, Duncannon Beach in Wexford, Rush South Beach in Dublin, and Fingal's Loughshinny beach were also deemed to have poor bathing waters.

A total of 93pc of Ireland's 137 bathing waters passed the EPA's tests with a rating of 'excellent' in the 2015 quality report.

Fine Gael councillor Mr McCartan believes the seagull population around Merrion Strand has increased in recent years.

"You can see they're an issue if you walk about the Sandymount/Ringsend area, up near the [River] Dodder.

"The birds were nesting in houses [a while ago]. Up in the sky, they look small but they're big aggressive animals and they've little fear of humans."

EPA Senior Scientific Officer Peter Webster says seagulls are 10 times more polluting to the country's beaches than people.

"In a single day, the droppings from the gulls carry about 10 times more concentrated bacteria than the pollution caused by human waste," he said. "That's about 40 million E. coli per gull."

Despite the increased health risk posed by the seagulls, Mr Webster urged caution when it came to tackling Merrion Strand's "complex pollutant problem".

"At the site, the DCC found waste belonging to humans, dogs and birds. The proportions of these haven't yet been established; so we've no clue honestly if the birds are 10pc of the problem or 90pc," said Mr Webster.

"There are two local streams going into the area that drain through housing estates... [and] there's clear evidence that some contaminates are coming from these sources. But until we can find the primary contributor, it is very difficult to come up with a management plan for the strand." Mr Webster said suggestions the EPA had called for a cull of seagulls was "completely untrue".

"There's been some utterly puerile reports on social media saying we told people to tamper with nest eggs… that's an abhorrent suggestion and we want to stress that the EPA is completely opposed to anything like that."

Describing the EPA's rating of Merrion Strand as "disappointing", Labour councillor Dermot Lacey said: "Maybe we humans should take a bit of responsibility before we start imposing responsibility on seagulls."

Asked if a draft management plan submitted to the EPA for Merrion Strand included a proposal to cull the area's seagull population, the DCC said it could not comment.

Irish Independent

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