Concerns raised over sea eagles

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INCREASING losses of lambs to the growing population of sea eagles living on the west coast yesterday saw a Scottish Government minister travel to Mull to meet concerned sheep farmers.

Environment minister Paul Wheelhouse visited Donald and Lachlan Maclean’s Knock Farm this week where he heard of the effect these large birds were now having on sheep flocks.

Donald Maclean, the chairman of the Mull branch of the National Farmers Union of Scotland, said the minister had been told how fragile the farming systems of the west coast were.

“He heard about the combined challenges of very extensive hill farming, high and rising input costs, volatile output prices and the consequent impact that losing a proportion of lambs each year to sea eagles can have on a vulnerable farm business.”

There is a limited scheme of support for sheep farmers losing lambs to sea eagles, which have been promoted as a major tourism attraction since their re-introduction from Scandinavian countries in recent years.

Maclean added the minister appeared open to the idea of looking further into sea eagle management needs and also into the better use of limited resources.

But he was adamant the first essential was securing a more certain future for hill farmers directly affected by a thriving sea eagle population but who did not benefit from the boost to tourism generated by them.