The consistent giving of food to ‘wild animals, birds, insects, reptiles or fish’ has become a potential criminal offence after the Environment Department received sustained complaints about the behaviour of seagulls and decided to take action.
The birds have been blamed for causing noise, damaging property, creating mess with their faeces, spreading disease and stealing food, as well as annoying humans. The feeding of gulls is also believed to be attracting rodents to problem areas.
Jersey’s public nuisance laws were updated this week after a proposition lodged by Environment Minister Steve Luce was approved by the States last September.
Deputy Luce said that his department would continue to give advice to Islanders to not feed gulls in problem areas but stricter enforcement could now be used, if necessary. If an Islander refuses to stop feeding the animal, a notice would be served. If the notice is breached, a file would be sent to the Attorney General.
‘We continue to try through education to encourage people not to feed seagulls,’ he said. ‘But what this will do is give us the power to take action and, if necessary, impose a fine if they ignore the advice which we give them.
‘When seagulls are fed they get used to being around us and that is when they start going into places like al-fresco areas of restaurants.
‘When we were having the debate a lot of people contacted me to say that in areas of terraced housing and back alleys people can be feeding seagulls and it causes problems.
‘They can pester people if they are having barbecues, picnics or just eating in their back garden.’
The minister added that it was hoped that the nuisance caused by a number of other creatures could be tackled with the new legislation.
‘The other thing when food is left out for seagulls is that it can attract vermin, so there are all sorts of good reasons for this law,’ he said. ‘The one thing I want to say is that I don’t want people to be discouraged from the good work they do feeding wild birds throughout the winter.
‘This is very much aimed at seagulls, mice, rats and feral chickens.’
Environmental Health director Stewart Petrie said that the new laws were an important ‘backstop’ to help guide Islanders towards better bird-feeding habits.
‘We don’t want to bash the bird-feeders but if you are giving advice, having these laws in place will help persuade them to do the right thing,’ he said.
‘We want people to get into good bird-feeding habits, such as using bird tables and nets to help birds through the winter, rather than tossing food to seagulls, who can cause a nuisance.
‘At the moment we have about two or three avid bird feeders who will just tear up a loaf and throw it out.
‘If people stop feeding gulls and we limit food waste on the streets, it’s hoped that gulls will eventually revert to a more natural diet and in time return to the cliffs.’
A statement released by the Environment Department and the JSPCA Animals’ Shelter says that Islanders preventing gulls from nesting on their roofs will also help reduce the nuisance they cause.
It adds that pest controllers should be contacted to deal with nests before the hatching season in May and June.