ILLEGAL winkle-picking on an island nature sanctuary could have had “dire consequences” for a protected colony of Britain’s rarest seabird, it was claimed.
Two men from Amble were sentenced by magistrates yesterday after being convicted of recklessly disturbing the birds, an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, during the winkle-picking trips to the island last summer.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said the two separate and unauthorised boat trips to Coquet Island – just off Amble, Northumberland – last summer could have had a serious impact on the colony of nesting roseate terns.
The island, which is managed by the RSPB, is home to virtually the UK’s entire breeding population of roseate terns, whose numbers have plummeted to just over 70 pairs. The species is so at-risk that landing on the island is strictly prohibited unless a special licence is granted by English Nature.
Derwick Ramsay, 41, of Newburgh Street, was given a three-month community order, with a requirement that he obeys a daily curfew from 7pm to 7am until April 24.
He was ordered to pay £275 in costs. He had denied recklessly disturbing the roseate terns on July 20, but was found guilty after a trial last week. The magistrates in Bedlington told him yesterday that he had committed the offence despite being warned about his presence on the island by RSPB wardens.
His cousin Leslie Ramsay, 42, of Charles Road, was given a one-month community order, with a requirement to obey a 7pm to 7am curfew, and ordered to pay £75 costs. He admitted committing the offence on July 22. The court heard both of them went on to the island and caused roseate terns to panic and take flight after wandering too close to nesting boxes.
Coquet Island is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and no unlicensed landing is permitted. Yesterday Alan Firth, the RSPB’s investigations officer for the North of England, said: ”We hope this case sends out the clear message that people can’t go on to Coquet Island.
“It’s impossible to know what the effects of these two incidents were but it is the danger of what could have been caused that is the main thing. Disturbing such a fragile breeding colony as this one could have had dire consequences.”
Chairman of the magistrates, Warren Snowdon, said the case had brought the special status of Coquet Island – and its extremely fragile roseate tern colony – to public attention, and this was the main aggravating feature of the case.”