Environmental Stewardship: Protecting Seagulls

Seagulls are everywhere in our coastal communities, and that includes the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). But some people might not know that seagulls are a protected species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

What does that mean for SONGS? If we find an active nest on site, we document it with the California State Lands Commission and the Fish and Wildlife Service and begin protocols that protect the nest and the eggs and the young within it. Currently there are fifteen active nests on site.

“With SONGS DecommissioningSolutions Environmental group, we track all nests out here to make sure the demolition activities are not disturbing our guests,” said Brian Metz, SCE environmental manager. “Once the juveniles leave and the nest becomes inactive, then the documentation is complete.”

Two juveniles are now spending time with mom at the UMAX dry fuel storage system at SONGS, where one nest was discovered and protected.

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Two young seagulls hang out near an inlet vent on the lid of a UMAX dry fuel storage module. Momma is always close by.
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With mom near their nest at the dry fuel storage system.

Of course, the best way to avoid nests is to discourage seagulls from nesting in the first place. Easier said than done, and a variety of methods have been used over the years with mixed results.

“Being creatures of habit, the seagulls tend to build a nest where they have in the past, which can assist with bird deterrents," Metz said. "But because the facility is so large, ultimately you try to move the birds to nest at locations that will not be effected by the decommissioning activities during the breeding season.”

There are other protected and endangered bird species in and around the site, such as the California Gnatcatcher. SCE approaches each situation we encounter with environmental stewardship in mind.