§ Mr. Cryer
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will place in the Official Report a statement regarding conservation of bird life with especial regard to the oyster catcher on Burry Inlet; and if he has taken account of the views of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
§ Dr. Summerskill
Under the Protection of Birds Acts 1954 to 1967 all wild birds, their nests and their eggs, are, subject to certain specified exceptions, protected at all times. It is an offence to take or kill such birds or to take or destroy their eggs, young or occupied nests.
Under the Act the Secretary of State is empowered, after consultation with the Advisory Committee on the Protection of Birds for England and Wales which was set up under the 1954 Act, to license the killing or taking of protected birds for certain specified purposes, such as scientific and educational purposes, falconry and aviculture. The Secretary of State also has powers to makes orders for such purposes as altering the degree of protection afforded to any species by adding or removing any wild bird from the schedules to the 1954 Act and establishing bird sanctuaries.
By virtue of the Wild Birds (Oystercatchers) Order 1963 the oyster catcher is included in the Second Schedule to the 360W 1954 Act in respect of a restricted area in the Burry Inlet. This means that the bird may be culled there at any time by persons authorised by bodies specified in the Act, which include local fisheries committees and local authorities. The order was made on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee which, after full consideration of representations made about the damage caused to cockle fishery by the birds and in the light of evidence from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, concluded that the fishery ought to be protected from the activities of oyster catchers. In 1968 a panel of scientists was appointed at the request of the Advisory Committee to inquire further into the problem. The panel, which comprised persons qualified to speak for the various interests concerned, concluded after a thorough investigation that the predatory activities of oyster catchers in the Burry Inlet were sufficient to justify retaining the order and the Advisory Committee recommended accordingly.
Authority to cull oyster catchers in the area in question was given by the South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee in 1973 with the aid of a grant from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and this arrangement was repeated in 1974. However, late last autumn my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food asked the committee to discontinue the cull since the population of oyster catchers, estimated at about 10,000, was not considered to be a threat to the cockle fishery, which was by then declining rapidly.
The views of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds have at all times been taken into account.