North Norfolk District Council has bowed to pressure to remove some anti-bird netting from cliffs. The netting was meant to deter sand martins from returning to their nesting grounds on the Bacton cliffs of the Norfolk coast. But it was a hazard that could potentially injure or kill birds and other animals.
The government wanted to encourage the birds to nest farther along the coast, so it could continue with its sandscaping project to protect homes and the Bacton Gas Terminal from coastal erosion.
The project already had been subject to a full environmental impact assessment. And it is outrageous that advice on how best to balance protecting both infrastructure and wildlife was so willfully ignored.
Footage emerged of sand martins becoming trapped in the netting, struggling to release themselves. This brought out activists in the community and led to the formation of the Save the Bacton Sand Martins Facebook group.
The fear is the netting not only will have a long-term impact on sand martins, but it also will impact other animals who have made the cliffs their homes, according to a BBC report. Animals who are in danger of becoming trapped and injured by the netting could act as a deterrent for other animals, unsettling the delicate coastal ecosystem.
“We are really worried with the length of netting,” Jeff Knott, the regional director for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, told the BBC. “There is a risk of birds getting stuck in or behind the netting and as a result dying.”
TV naturalist Chris Packham added, “The birds arrive exhausted to sites they know have resources to sustain them. To survive, birds will have up to three broods because predation and disease cuts numbers. They will not have energy or time to find new sites so many may fail to breed.”
Both the government conservation agency Natural England and the RSPB offered the council advice on how best to net the area without harming the birds and surrounding ecosystem.
“Heart breaking to see that @NorthNorfolkDC have not taken our (and their contractors) original advice, and instead netted over 1km of the Bacton cliff face,”RSPB tweeted. “The onus is on NNDC now to do the right thing for our sand martins.”
The netting at Bacton could be in contravention of the Animal Welfare Act of 2006. The act states, “Developers must fulfill their obligation to safeguard local wildlife and habitats. Netting trees and hedgerows is only appropriate where genuinely needed to protect birds from harm during development.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t only happening in Norfolk.
Tesco, one of the U.K.’s leading supermarkets, faced heavy criticism in March 2019 when one of its Norwich stores erected anti-swallow netting above its trolley park. This was after customers complained about bird droppings sticking to the handles of shopping carts. Instead of installing simple boarding beneath the nesting site, Tesco decided that disrupting the migratory path of swallows was more important to satisfy customers.
Netting was also installed over hedgerows in Ludlow to deter birds from nesting in an area purchased by Pickstone Homes to develop 200 homes. Here, the public took matters into its own hands when environmental activists removed the netting themselves. The same happened recently in Llangollen in Wales, when water company Hafren Dyfrdwy covered trees and hedges in netting for its upcoming plans to build a new reservoir.
Wildlife activist Stewart Abbott of Belper, Derbyshire, has developed an interactive map showing all the current netting sites around the country. “Wildlife at the moment, especially in the UK, seems to be attacked from every angle with pesticides and herbicides,” Abbott told the BBC. “This is just one more thing they seem to be attacking them with. It is just one step too far.”
We are becoming an increasingly aware society, noticing the impact our way of life has on the wildlife we so long took for granted. Developers for these projects need to take into consideration that the public will no longer stand idle, watching ecosystems be destroyed for the sake of development and profit.
This article was first published by Care2.com on 20 Apr 2019.
We invite you to share your opinion whether “Anti-Bird Netting” should be banned to protect wildlife? Please vote and leave your comments at the bottom of this page.
Thank you for voting.
Editorial Comment: The purpose of this poll is to highlight important wildlife conservation issues and to encourage discussion on ways to stop wildlife crime. By leaving a comment and sharing this post you can help to raise awareness. Thank you for your support.