Locals want to sea action over growing gull problem

by Sylvia Pownall

HOWTH residents who claim the seaside town is under siege from seagulls have taken their case to Minister for Regional Affairs Heather Humphreys.
The tourism hot spot has followed Balbriggan’s lead in its bid to be allowed to remove the nests and eggs of protected gulls from rooftops.
Fianna Fail TD Sean Haughey wrote to Minister Humphreys advising that Howth residents wanted action and he attached correspondence from one constituent who claimed to have witnessed a gull “swoop and take a chip from a baby’s mouth”.
Minister Richard Bruton wrote to the Minister advising her that several people had contacted him about the issue.
He asked her to inform him “what was done in Balbriggan and what were the criteria for securing a derogation”.
Finian McGrath TD also wrote to Ms Humphreys’ office asking: “Can you advise as to what action you intend to take over the seagull problem in Howth?
“It has been noted that you have taken action in the Balbriggan area and my Howth constituents are wondering whether you plan on carrying out similar action in the Howth area.”
Deputy Darragh O’Brien (FF) wrote to Ms Humphreys and attached a letter from a constituent who asked, among other things, about what will be done about the “explosion” of gulls in urban areas.
Conservationists estimate the Irish gull population has declined by about 90 per cent in recent decades because of loss of habitat and overfishing in Irish waters.
As landfills closed, many gulls migrated into towns to scavenge food waste left out or littered by humans.
The pilot scheme was granted in Balbriggan following more than 50 letters claiming the scavengers had become a nuisance and posed a health risk.
Ms Humphries approved it because of what she termed a “threat to public safety” but Bird Watch Ireland said there was no proof of any threat and vowed to monitor the process carefully.
In December last year the Wildlife Licensing Unit of the Department of Regional Affairs asked the Health Service Executive whether the gull situation in north Dublin could be considered a public health issue.
Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show the HSE replied saying gulls do not appear to transmit harmful bacteria and viruses to humans in any meaningful amount.
It stated: “There is little evidence that these birds constitute a significant infectious disease risk to humans.”

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