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RSPB expresses concern at impact on birds of illegal netting

16 July 2012

Alan Tissiman
Communications Manager

RSPB Scotland has praised water bailiffs after their speedy action led to the release of a red-throated diver that had been trapped in illegally set netting at Loch Carloway on the Isle of Lewis. The incident was reported to Malcolm McPhail, volunteer superintendant for the Western Isles Fishery Board.  

RSPB spokesman Alan Tissiman said: “Illegal netting is a threat to both fish stocks and wild birds. Red-throated divers are just one of a number of species of birds that can easily get caught and drowned. This red-throated diver was a very lucky bird in being rescued by the swift action of the bailiffs. Others, unfortunately, will not be so lucky.” 

Mr McPhail said: “Unfortunately this activity is a threat to many of the wildlife species that the Western Isles are famous for.  The use of gill nets is illegal under the Salmon Act of 2003 and they can impact negatively on birds, marine mammals and, even, basking sharks. 

“It is in no-one’s interest for illegal and unregulated activity to threaten their populations. The Fisheries Board will continue to do its utmost to preserve the health of the rivers and lochs so that we have sustainable numbers of both fish and birds for future generations to enjoy.”


The red-throated diver is the smaller of the UK's two breeding species of divers. Its grey-brown plumage and up-tilted bill readily distinguish it from the other species. In summer it has a distinctive red throat. They usually jump up to dive and can stay underwater for a minute and a half. They are very ungainly on land, only coming ashore to breed. A recent moderate population decline makes them an Amber List species of conservation concern. There is estimated to be fewer than 1500 pairs of birds in the UK, the vast majority of which are found in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.