HC Deb 29 November 1938 vol 342 cc213-4
1. Mr. Mathers

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that about 2,000 young gannets are taken annually at the uninhabited island of Sula Sgeir at a time outside the close season; and whether he proposes to take any steps to stop this slaughter of these wild birds?

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Colville)

Yes, Sir. For a number of years past it has been the local practice to take gannets outside the close season for food and other purposes. I have been in communication with the county council, to whom it would be open to apply for an order under the Wild Birds Protection Acts prohibiting the practice. I am informed that, after reviewing the whole position, they have decided not to apply for an order at present, as, in their view, such action might interfere with the livelihood of people in the Ness district of Lewis.

Mr. Mathers

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the gannets on Sula Sgeir are being reduced in numbers very seriously, and does he not recognise the value of this wild bird population? Will he use his influence with the Ross and Cromarty county authority to induce them to apply for an order, in view of the fact that there is, in my opinion, something disgraceful in having people risk their lives in order to get this inferior food?

Mr. Colville

The local authority have had the matter under review, but have decided that such action might interfere with the livelihood of the islanders.

Mr. J. J. Davidson

Is it Primarily lack of food that is responsible for this slaughter?

Mr. Colville

No, Sir. This has been the practice for many years past. It is done not only for food, but for other purposes. The islanders sell the products from the birds.

Colonel Clarke

Is it not a fact that gannets are quite common, and are increasing?

Mr. Colville

I am told that there is no danger of their being exterminated.