Who stops the seagulls and how?

The shrill cry of a seagull on the Ostend boardwalk: it gives your visit a local touch, but the birds are becoming a nuisance in their search for food. This is not new, but with the local elections coming up, it is being highlighted in local politics. Different ideas have been put forward to address the problem.

In Zeebrugge, staff working for Belgian Rail have been attacked by seagulls a couple of times. This could be because the birds have a breeding place nearby.

On the boardwalk in Ostend, there is the occasional "personal attack" when they fly very low pecking people's heads. In the area of the fish market, they sometimes steal food out of the tourists' hands. The tourists are also guilty though, giving the birds the wrong idea by feeding them. Ostend has installed fines of up to 250 euros for feeding the animals, but this doesn't seem to have any effect.

The birds also destroy local residents' rubbish bags, making a complete mess of the pavement. But the main problem is that there are just too many.

"Feed the birds in the sea"

Fire services are looking for nests and take the eggs away. However, this is not enough. The Ostend alderman for Agriculture Martine Lesaffre (liberal) suggests feeding points in the open sea to keep the gulls away from the city. The area would also include a breeding place.

Seagulls are a protected species. Ms Lesaffre thinks that it might not be a bad idea to lift this status for just a while, but in that case they would need the approval of the European Union. Apparently, their number is growing at a quick pace, and seagulls can live up to 30 years.

Others methods like deterring them with artificial noises or special hawk kites, have not proved very effective.