Plan announced to tackle gull menace

A new campaign is being launched to try and keep seagulls away from Fife's town centres.
A new campaign is being launched to try and keep seagulls away from Fife's town centres.

A new education campaign aimed at encouraging people not to drop food waste is to be launched to try to keep seagulls out of Fife’s town centres.

A new education campaign aimed at encouraging people not to drop food waste is to be launched to try to keep seagulls out of Fife’s town centres.

Aggressive gulls are a particular problem in Kirkcaldy, where reports are common of birds swooping on shoppers and stealing their food. Pic: TSPL.

Aggressive gulls are a particular problem in Kirkcaldy, where reports are common of birds swooping on shoppers and stealing their food. Pic: TSPL.

The initiative, which will also inform staff at commercial premises and food outlets of their responsibilities to prevent littering, was the recommended option put forward by Fife Council officers in a new attempt to deal with the long-standing issue.

Two other options included an in-house gull management programme in which pest control officers would charge the public to tackle complaints, along with the continuation of a private contract to remove nests and eggs at a cost of £18,000 a year.

But members on the environment, protective services and community services committee agreed that a programme of education, awareness raising and litter enforcement was the best way forward.

Fife Council received around 100 complaints about seagulls last year – and numerous calls for advice,

Cllr Alistair Cameron.  Credit- Fife Photo Agency

Cllr Alistair Cameron. Credit- Fife Photo Agency

The local authority has no statutory responsibility to control the gull population, but there is a ‘disproportionately high’ expectation that it will.

Aggressive gulls are a particular problem in Kirkcaldy, where reports are common of birds swooping on shoppers and stealing their food.

Mark McCall, safer communities manager, said an education programme will ensure commercial premises and the public are aware of their responsibilities to prevent littering and food waste.

The campaign will be supported by increased signage warning people not to feed gulls, and safer communities officers will carry out more patrols.

Cllr Zoe Hisbent.

Cllr Zoe Hisbent.

Mr McCall said: “The most sustainable way to approach this is to effect a change in behaviours.

“Seagulls are attracted to areas where food is available and easy to access so our aim for this year is to raise awareness amongst the public that feeding the birds, leaving food waste outside and dropping litter will encourage them into our town centres.

“Officers will work within schools to educate on public health issues associated with littering, and will engage with commercial premises to ensure food waste is effectively managed.

“Where littering is evident we will take action through fixed penalty notices.”

The plan has the full backing of local councillors.

Zoe Hisbent, councillor for Kirkcaldy central, said: “Seagulls have been an ever increasing problem, and with the number of complaints steadily rising. By educating people and changing behaviour we can work towards an effective and sustainable solution.”

Councillor Alistair Cameron said that education was the key to success.

“Just on Sunday I saw an elderly gentleman emptying food out onto the grass. I was horrified – I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

“The education part is important, but what is more important is how it is enforced.”

He said the intention was to ‘blast’ the High Street with posters and leaflets by June to make the public and commericial premises fully aware of their responsibilities.

Councillor Judy Hamilton, who also represents Kirkcaldy central, said: “We need a robust campaign - and we as a community must take a robust approach to ensuring that we do not feed seagulls, or leave food or litter around.”

Gordon Langlands, councillor for Burntisland, Kinghorn and Western Kirkcaldy, added: “We need containment until a long term, humane solution is available. Council officials have promised a litter action plan for June which should help to address our concerns.”

Kirkcaldy4All has worked hard to tackle the issue, and it also welcomed the moves.

Bill Harvey, BID manager, said: “Education has to be a key factor in the way we deal with seagulls. I am really pleased that Fife Council has acknowledged there is a problem and is taking steps towards how to control the gulls.”

Cllr Neil Crooks, chairman of Kirkcaldy area committee, added: “It seems more than obvious that if there is no food bounty on land the gulls may return to their natural habitat at sea. In Kirkcaldy town centre and waterfront area it is too common for people to feed the birds, whether deliberately or through lack of thought.

“It will take a united effort to address the food waste disposal issues and raise awareness.”