Agency hits back over sea eagle project

Natural England insists it will fully examine concerns raised by farmers following the proposed reintroduction of a controversial bird of prey to East Anglia.

The government’s landscape agency made the pledge after landowners voiced fears that livestock could be targeted if sea eagles are reintroduced to Norfolk.

A Natural England spokesperson said the agency and its partners in the project firmly believed that needed to be an informed discussion with all stakeholders.

“We are consulting with a wide range of sectors from farmers, conservationists, land managers, wildfowlers, local businesses, tourism authorities and local people.

“We need to assess the ecological and socio-economic benefits of a re-introduction to the East of England and weigh this against the impacts that this may cause.

“It is only after this wide-ranging canvassing of views and evidence that we can make a fully informed judgement as to whether this re-introduction should go ahead.”

The comments came after the Country Land and Business Association outlined concerns about the project to Natural England chief executive Helen Phillips.

“Our members are worried about the effect the proposed reintroduction will have on their livestock,” said CLA president Henry Aubrey-Fletcher.

The agency should explain how it intended to manage the situation and compensate farmers for any livestock losses, he added.

Once a native species, the sea eagle was driven to extinction in 1916.

The birds are predators which generally feed on fish, birds and rabbits. But they also have a reputation for targeting newborn lambs and piglets.