Farmers voice fears over bird of prey project

Landowners have written to the government’s landscape agency voicing fears over the proposed release of a controversial bird of prey in East Anglia.

The letter highlights farmers’ fears about the way decisions are being made concerning the planned reintroduction of sea eagles into Norfolk.

It was written by Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, president of the Country Land and Business Association, to Helen Phillips, chief executive of Natural England.

“Our members are worried about the effect the proposed reintroduction will have on their livestock,” said Sir Henry.

He added: “Our letter to Natural England asks them to explain how they would manage the situation and compensate livestock owners.”

A partnership led by Natural England hopes to release breeding pairs of sea eagles along the Norfolk coast next summer.

The initiative also involves the RSPB and Anglia Water.

Natural England said the project was about restoring a bird to parts of the countryside where it would be naturally found, were it not for human persecution in the past.

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.

Scottish farmers have blamed reintroduced sea eagles for killing more than 200 lambs this season on the Gairloch peninsula, but the death toll is disputed by the RSPB which claims the birds would only target weak or “non-viable” animals.