New posters have gone up in Largs to warn the public not to feed the seagulls, or risk an £80 fine.

It is a change in tact from North Ayrshire Council, after further concerns were raised earlier in the summer regarding a spate of incidents when seagulls swooped down on unsuspecting members of the public to snatch their food.

Independent councillor Ian Murdoch who has contacted other seaside towns around the UK to find out how they have dealt with the gull problem.

He said: "I am very pleased that the posters have been put up. Nobody wants to see anybody get fined but I am hoping it will act as a deterrent.

"If people don't feed the seagulls, there won't be a problem.

"When I am on the prom, I regularly challenge people who feed the seagulls.

"Signs have been put up warning the public not to feed the seagulls but they were taken away when they were resurfacing the prom, and they never put them back.

"These new signs are much more prominent, and will hopefully make a big difference. It can only be a good thing."

Local businesses have broadly backed the move.

Claudio Nardini, co-owner of Nardini at the Moorings, said: "You have to educate people, but how do you educate them? Visitors travel down to Largs for a few hours or so to enjoy an ice cream or a walk along the beach.

"I think the visible signs are necessary. You need a deterrent. Visitors to Largs don't have a seagull problem where they come from, and they are not aware of the Largs issue, but that basically shows them that there is a problem and there is a fine in place if they don't adhere to it. You can't educate people - what are you supposed to do otherwise. You can't exactly take them into a classroom and educate them regarding seagulls.

"The seagulls are going after the food, they are not going after the humans. The gulls have been become more aggressive, and they are targeting weaker people. The birds are clever animals.

"I've had many a customer come into the cafe looking for plasters or bandages after being swooped upon by seagulls. They're not intentionally aggressive but they can be dangerous when they target children and older people."

Billy Irvin, who runs the Beachcombers Kiosk operation on Largs seafront, said: "These new signs are wonderful - we maybe need more of these signs but they are very good.

"I have noticed that when the Viking Fair is here, the seagulls tend to go away because they don't like the noise, so there isn't as much of a problem.

"The seagulls will do anything to get to the food - and they are persistent. I am hoping that the signs will make a difference."

David Nairn, of the Clyde Mammal Marine Trust, said: "I would prefer to see people being taken on biodiversity courses rather than having them fined, as some people might not be able to afford to pay it. Education is always going to be the better way forward.

"People need to have a greater appreciation of the environment, but I do agree it is important that people do not feed the seagulls - it just makes them worse for sure.

"The seagulls will come down and take the whole fish and chips or ice cream out of your hands."

A North Ayrshire Council spokesman said: While there is no specific legislation to deal with those feeding seagulls, the Council is looking at littering and anti-social behaviour policies that are already in place.

“The biggest single reason behind the gull problem is people feeding them. They might think they are being kind, but they are not being kind. They are exacerbating a problem which can have a really negative experience for people visiting or living in our seaside towns.

“We have used social media, press and signs along the seafront to try and get the message out there that it’s unacceptable to feed the birds. Now we feel we have to take stronger action. We think this is something that will be supported by the majority of people.

“From a legal standpoint, we think feeding gulls could quite conceivably be seen as anti-social behaviour. Feeding them is actually resulting in the aggressive behaviour of gulls as they then expect to be fed and swoop down on people.

“We could also look at it as littering and, like anyone else caught littering, we would issue a fine.”

"When the Council introduced their litter, fly tipping and dog fouling prevention strategy they adopted a 3 Es - educate, enable, and enforce – approach.

And Councillor Jim Montgomerie, Cabinet Member for Place, added: “In terms of educating and enabling, we have done lots and lots of this in relation to gulls.

“Now we feel that we have to take the third of this three-pronged approach and enforce. People should be well aware that feeding gulls is irresponsible so we need to underpin this message by warning that fines could be issued."