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Minister hopes for reef warden to protect birds

News | Published:

EMPLOYING a warden to monitor the Ecréhous and the seabirds which breed on the reef is on the ‘wish list’ for protecting the area, the Environment Minister has said.

Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (28729571)

However, Deputy John Young said that resourcing such a post would not be easy.

He also confirmed that there had been an increase in the number of breeding birds at the protected site this year – a trend he said could be down to lockdown and fewer people visiting the offshore reef.

The minister’s comments come after it emerged that tensions had arisen following unofficial efforts by a local conservationist to protect the nesting sites of common terns and two breeding pairs of rare roseate terns.

The reef is part of the Jersey National Park and also a Ramsar site and, from May to August, is the chosen nesting place for a range of birds.

Last month the JEP reported that Nick Jouault had painted messages and put up tape hoping that people would keep clear of the nesting area, which is around the size of half a tennis court.

But the area includes a bench and a flagpole which some residents and visitors want access to. The dispute allegedly resulted in the makeshift notices being destroyed.

Speaking in the States yesterday, Deputy Young said that his department was working closely with the parish of St Martin, which acts as custodian of the Ecréhous, the residents’ association for those who own property on the reef and the ornithological section of the Société Jersiaise.

He added that regular visits were made to the reef but agreed that having a guardian stationed at the Ecréhous permanently or during the summer would be preferable.

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He added: ‘There has been an increase in the number of birds breeding in this [tern] colony this year, possibly due to the lack of human interaction during the period of lockdown.

‘This is one of the most scarce UK seabirds. With the support of the residents we have put out signs and also agreed the key messages of no dogs on the reef and no drones, and those are strong measures.’

The minister said that under the existing wildlife law it was an offence to destroy or damage nests being built or in use, but that an updated law on its way soon would strengthen those measures further.

Asked by Deputy Rob Ward if a guardian for the reef would be a better idea, he said: ‘Of course it would. A resident warden or at least a summer-only warden, particularly during the period of summer when the breeding birds form their colony – yes, it would be a good idea. But it comes down to resources. Yes, it is on our list of how we can improve resources.’

Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson
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