Natural England has issued a licence to allow the release of white-tailed eagles on the Isle of Wight.
White-tailed eagles became extinct as a breeding species in England in the eighteenth century. Releases over the past 40 years have successfully re-established breeding populations in Scotland and Ireland.
Natural England has very carefully considered all aspects of the licence application. I would like to personally thank the expert working group of local staff and national specialists who have carefully tested the application against our licensing criteria and the IUCN: International Union for Conservation of Nature's Guidelines for Reintroductions and Other Conservation Translocations.
We have paid particular attention to:
- the impacts on other wildlife and socio-economic interests, including livestock
- the risk of disease transmission
- the feasibility of the proposal and likely success
- any risk to the donor population
- the contribution to the conservation of white-tailed eagles
- the adequacy of the applicant’s consultation, the evidence of support and how issues raised will be addressed
- the applicant’s experience
- the applicant’s monitoring plan
- evidence of sufficient finances to support the project
- the applicant’s communications plan and exit strategy
We have very thoroughly assessed the potential impacts on protected site features and existing wildlife. We have discounted any adverse impacts through direct predation and disturbance by the eagles or indirectly through increased visitor pressure from ‘eagle tourists’.
We have carefully examined the potential risk of lamb predation. There is no evidence of this becoming a problem where the eagles live alongside lowland sheep farming in Europe. However, we will ensure that the applicant puts in place clear routes to identify and manage any unexpected issues that might arise.
The licence permits the release of up to 60 eagles (12 per year) over the next five years. Young eagles will be sourced under licence from nests in Scotland and raised through to release on the Isle of Wight. The first release is planned for summer 2019.
In response to queries raised through public consultation and our assessment, conditions attached to the licence ensure that no releases can occur until the applicants have:
- established a project steering group and a monitoring and management group with representation from key stakeholders and sectors
- developed a detailed monitoring strategy with clear evaluation and research objectives
- produced a communications strategy that clearly outlines mechanisms for escalating concerns and accessing advice and support to resolve them
Natural England is pleased to be able to license this application. As described in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, bringing back lost species in a well-planned and supported way not only helps wildlife populations recover, but can also help more people connect with nature and open up new business opportunities.