Two men who disturbed a colony of the UK’s rarest seabird have been placed under curfew by a court.
Chairman of the bench Warren Snowdon said: “This case has brought the special status of Coquet Island to public awareness – that is the fact that nobody at all can land on the island without a licence because of the extreme fragility of the colony of roseate terns there - these are red-listed birds.
Derwick Ramsey, 42, of Newburgh Street, Amble, who had denied recklessly disturbing the nesting birds but was convicted, was placed under 7pm-7am curfew for three months.
He was told to pay £200 prosecution costs and £75 towards the investigation costs of the RSPB.
Leslie Ramsey, 41, of Charles Road, Amble, had admitted disturbing the birds and was placed under curfew for one month with no costs.
Both were acquitted of having boats capable of being used to commit a Wildlife and Countryside offence. The bench turned down a prosecution request to order forfeiture of the boats because of their link with the disturbance offences.
The pair had landed on the island sanctuary separately on different dates last July, saying they wanted to pick winkles for their children to earn pocket money for a Jessie J concert at Alnwick.
They had been marooned by the tide and been obliged to stay on the island for a few hours.
Derwick was told by RSPB wardens the timid terns must not be disturbed because their chicks would be endangered, but the court heard he walked around the entire shore, causing a domino effect of alarm.
Leslie, who knew nothing of this incident, had been marooned two days later, seen no signs prohibiting landing and had not been spoken to by wardens.
Mr Snowdon said the Bedlington bench accepted the offences had been committed recklessly rather than deliberately.
“The disturbance was not much greater than the regular disturbance by the ecological wardens for research purposes,” he said.
Barry Row, for both men, said the disturbance had been inadvertent and they had been pursuing a lawful activity. It would be wrong and disproportionate to take away their boats.
After the case, RSPB North of England investigations officer Alan Firth said he felt the community sentences were reasonable.
“I’m happy that he’s made comments regarding bringing Coquet Island to the public’s attention and its fragility.”
Prosecutor Jonathan Moore’s RSPB witnesses had told the court there were 71 nesting pairs on the island at the time and chicks would have been vulnerable to predators while the parents were flying around in alarm for about 20 minutes.
Mr Firth said it was impossible to tell if the two disturbance episodes had cost any lives in the colony. “The thing is the damage that could have caused. Obviously disturbing such a fragile colony could have dire consequences,” he said.