Controversy Surrounding the Tradition of Seagull Egg Collecting and Mack Beer in Northern Norway

Mack beer and seagull eggs are a well-known term in northern Norway.

Gathering seagull eggs was once an important part of the diet of people along the coast. It is no longer particularly important, but the tradition is still maintained.

These days, shops all over Northern Norway advertise the eggs. In Bodø, stores such as Coop Mega and Bofisk have posted on Facebook.

But not everyone is equally excited that the tradition lives on.

– We have come out clearly and said that we do not want seagull eggs to be picked, sold or bought, says Martin Eggen.

He is a lofotværing and nature conservation advisor at Birdlife Norway.

The resistance is about that eggs are sold from gray gull It has had a major decline in a few years.

– All harvesting should have been stopped by the Norwegian Environment Agency, says Martin Eggen, who is a nature conservation advisor at Birdlife.


On the red list

Five of the seven nesting gull species we have in mainland Norway are on

Little black-backed gull, shrike, herring gull, gray gull and hooded gull are red-listed. Herring gulls and black-backed gulls are not.

” data-term=”redlist”>redlist.

Herring gull and black tern are the only two species described as viable.

But there has been a significant reduction in the population of blackback along the coast of Troms and Finnmark, according to The Species Data Bank. The stocks in Finland and Sweden are also in marked decline.

Last year there were new, stricter rules regarding the collection of seagull eggs. It is now only allowed to pick one egg per nest.

Seagull eggs at Arna station

Some seagull eggs are still allowed to be collected. But only one egg per nest per season.

Photo: Alrik Velsvik / NRK

The eggs of gray gulls and black-backed gulls can be collected all over the country until 10 May – or 25 May for Northern Norway.

Herring eggs can be collected throughout southern Norway until 10 May.

The gray gull’s eggs are therefore allowed to be picked, despite the fact that the species is red-listed and designated as vulnerable The Species Data Bank. That means it is an endangered species.

– When the gray gull has become an endangered species in Norway, we must take the red list status seriously, and stop the collection of gull eggs. Nature management is necessarysays Eggen.

– Difficult to see the difference

What often happens when the eggs are removed from the nest is that the seagull lays new eggs. It is not unproblematic, he believes.

– Laying new eggs all the time has its cost. It requires energy. These are not laying hens that receive concentrated feed. The seagulls are already struggling with food shortages and declining populations. Therefore, they should be left alone during the breeding season.

According to Eggen, one of the challenges is that it is difficult to see the difference between the seagull eggs. He also believes that not everyone complies with the new rules.

Companies that are concerned with marketing themselves as sustainable cannot be known for selling eggs from endangered species.

Gray gull

GRAY GULL: Seabirds are struggling all over the world. Food shortages, which in turn can be linked to climate change and overfishing, are considered the most important cause.

Photo: Knut-Sverre Horn

Nor are there enough of them control mechanisms on whether the collection is in accordance with regulations, which state that only one egg should be taken from each nest per season.

When the grebe and herring gull entered the red list, egg collection from the species was stopped. It is natural that we are now stopping egg collection from gray gulls.

– Black back only

The fish shop Bofisk in Bodø sells seagull eggs. Managing director Harald Lorentzen says that Eating seagull eggs has long traditions in northern Norway.

Seagulls and humans have always interacted. Traditionally, we have fed seagulls with fish waste, and we have collected their eggs.

Nevertheless, the fishmonger experienced some negative comments when they announced on Facebook that they were selling seagull eggs.

Facebook post from Bofisk advertising seagull eggs.

Eating seagull eggs is a long-standing tradition in northern Norway, says general manager of Bofisk Harald Lorentzen. – The eggs are eaten hard-boiled, and should be boiled for 15–18 minutes. Cut in half and eat as is or on a slice of bread, he says.

Photo: Screenshot 13/05/2023

But he assures that Bofisk only sells eggs from black terns, also known as great seagulls.

It is impossible to be wrong. The seagulls lay eggs at different times, and only the black-backed tern has laid eggs this early in May.

That is not right, according to Martin Eggen in Birdlife.

For most people, it is difficult to distinguish eggs from black-backed and gray-backed gulls, and it has also not been common when picking. Gray gulls and black-backed terns breed in mixed colonies, and their eggs are called “great heron eggs”, just as the collective term “great heron” is also used for the two species, says Eggen.

Svartbaken takeoff in the strong wind in Bø in Vesterålen 2 May 2010.

The Black-backed Gull is the largest species of gull that breeds in Norway, and we have 24 percent of the total global population.

Photo: Bjørnar Hansen

Coop Mega in Rønvika in Bodø also offers seagull eggs.

Coop Norge emphasizes that they are busy of having good partners. And that they demand that laws and regulations are followed in all contexts.

Coop would like to facilitate local food traditions to live on, and there are long traditions behind both picking and eating seagull eggs, says Knut Lutnæs, who is communication and contact with authorities in Coop.

He says that the sale of seagull eggs is very limited. So far this year, a total of 40 eggs have been purchased for two stores in Nordland.

Gray gull in flight

– It is not egg collection that has led to these species being on the red list, says Tycho Anker-Nilssen, senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Natural Sciences. Here a gray gull.

Photo: Knut Dreiås

Does Coop think it is ethically sound to sell seagull eggs?

Questions about management of seagull populations must be addressed to the environmental authorities.

In recent times, not everyone is as careful

Tycho Anker-Nilssen, senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Natural Sciences (NINA) is not as skeptical about seagull egg collection:

– Taking eggs from a nest is not necessarily a big problem. It is not egg collection that has led to these species being on the red list, he says.

However, he is still concerned that people must follow the new rules.

  Researcher Tycho Anker-Nilssen

– I can’t see that there is a problem if the eggs are collected in line with current laws and regulations, says researcher Tycho Anker-Nilssen.

Photo: Kari Skeie / NRK

Like Eggen, he is skeptical about whether everyone will be able to comply with them:

It is because the attitude and knowledge of those who collect today have changed, he believes.

In the past, gatherers were often better at knowing which eggs could be taken when.

– They held them up to the light or checked how they flew to know if they had stayed broodedhe explains.

But in recent times, not everyone is as careful, and more eggs are taken from the nests. Anker-Nilssen also believes that some gatherers take the eggs too late in the season, after they have hatched, without checking them before they get home.

– It will be the wrong way to do it, and therefore this has now been made clear in the legislation.

But ensuring that the legislation is complied with is not the shop’s task, the researcher believes.

Seagull eggs hatch

Spring and summer are a vulnerable time for seagulls across the country. Here is a seagull egg about to hatch.

Photo: Jørn Nordli / NRK

– To draw a parallel: if you think a fishery is not sustainable, then I would not go to the shop and accuse them of being the problem. The same applies here.

– If they are collected in line with the legislation, then there is no problem that it is traded, Anker-Nilssen believes.

2023-05-22 20:13:11

#shops #sell #seagull #eggs #redlisted #bird #species

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