HC Deb 26 February 1869 vol 194 cc404-6

, in moving for leave to introduce a Bill for the Preservation of Sea Birds, said, it was with much diffidence that he presumed to bring before the notice of the House a measure which sought to give some legislative protection to those sea birds which still remained on our English coasts. The Bill was not only framed in accordance with the strongly - expressed feeling of almost every class of his constituency (East Riding of Yorkshire), but from the numerous letters he had received from all parts of England, evincing the warmest sympathy with its objects, he was led to regard it as one of almost national interest. The sea birds of England were rapidly disappearing from our coasts. That fact had been established at the last annual meeting of the British Association. Prom Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, Norfolk, Devonshire, Cornwall, and Pembrokeshire, the same cry arose. His Bill aimed at protecting those sea birds during the breeding season; and there was a very important precedent for it in a rigid statute passed in the 25th year of the reign of Henry VIII., protecting sea birds at that very season. The grounds on which he brought the measure forward were no mere sentimental or humanitarian grounds, though these were strong enough. He did so in the interest of three very important classes of his constituents, for important they must be to every Member of a sea-board county; he meant the farmers, the merchant seamen, and the deep-sea fishers. A few years ago, the farmers of the East Riding of Yorkshire—not merely those residing in the immediate vicinity of the coast, but as far as twenty miles inland—were accustomed to see flocks of sea birds following at the heels of the ploughboy and from the newly turned-up earth picking up worms and grubs. But he held in his hand a letter from an influential farmer living in the parish of Filey, within a mile of the coast, stating that last summer he did not see a single bird on his farm. He appealed to the House also in the interest of our merchant sailors, for in foggy weather those birds, by their cry, afforded warning of the proximity of a rocky shore, when neither a beacon-light could be seen nor a signal-gun heard. He held in his hand a paper proving that with the decrease of those birds the number of vessels which had gone ashore at Flamborough Head had steadily increased. For the services they rendered to the mariner those birds had earned for themselves the name of the "Flamborough pilots." He appealed to the House, likewise, in the interest of the deep-sea fishers, because, by hovering over the shoals of fish, those birds pointed out the places where the fisherman should cast his net. On that ground alone the Legislature of the Isle of Man had lately passed an Act imposing a penalty of £5 on every man who wilfully killed or destroyed a seagull. Lastly, he made his appeal even in the interest of those thoughtless pleasure seekers themselves who flocked to the coast in the summer months, chiefly from the populous towns of the West Riding of Yorkshire and of Lancashire. Those persons would have themselves to blame if, in a few years, they found that those rocks, which he once remembered as teeming with wild fowl, had become a silent wilderness. In conclusion, he hoped that the importance of the Bill which he moved for leave to introduce would not be overlooked through the insignificance of its advocate.

Bill for the Preservation of Sea Birds, ordered to be brought in by Mr. SYKES, Mr. CLAY, and Mr. WARD JACKSON.