Natural England Wants Rat Eradication Plans Extended

Rat removal work underway on St Agnes

Rat removal work underway on St Agnes

Yesterday we reported that the Seabird Recovery Project team wanted islanders’ views on whether the rat cull should take place on more inhabited islands.

Now, Natural England say they also want the project extended.

The government agency responsible for England’s natural environment also wants better treatment of our sewage.

The recommendations form part of their ‘Site Improvement Plan’ for Scilly and will guide how our Special Protected Areas and conservation zones should be managed in the future.

The organisation has focussed on protecting key species that thrive in our islands, and say Scilly is internationally important for its breeding populations of storm petrel and lesser black-backed gulls.

These birds are under threat from rats and they want to see if the successful project to remove rats from St Agnes and Gugh could be extended to Tresco, St Martin’s and Bryher.

The islands weren’t included in the initial programme because it was considered more difficult to keep them rat-free, mainly because they’re so close together.

The initial work could cost up to £1m and Natural England wants the Wildlife Trust to take the lead.

They’re also keen to get more protection for Scilly’s seagrass beds, the largest in England and Wales.

But that could mean costly upgrades to the sewage treatment infrastructure on St Mary’s and the off-islands, costing up to £10m. They also want a study to be carried out into the effects of boat anchorages on the beds.

Monitoring a rare shoreline plant, the sea dock, has also been included on the list of things to do.

Last week ScillyToday reported that plant expert Rosemary Parslow, who has been surveying Scilly’s beaches for Natural England, had found that the plant had been wiped out by last winter’s storms and it was unclear whether it could be re-established.

Other measures recommended by Natural England include reducing the effects of boat traffic and visitors on Scilly’s grey seal and seabird colonies. That would mean raising awareness of the issue amongst water users.