Armies of hungry cormorants are sweeping their way across Europe at an alarming rate, consuming a staggering 1,000 tonnes of fish a day, new research has claimed.
The figures, presented to delegates at the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association’s (EFTTA) recent three-day annual assembly, claimed that there are now at least a million cormorants established on the continent.
Scientists believe that if a management plan to control the spiralling growth of breeding colonies is not introduced as soon as possible, fish stocks could be wiped out in many areas of Europe.
The research, compiled by Dr Franz Kohl of the European Anglers Alliance (EAA), shows that the number of breeding pairs in the UK alone has now soared to 25,000, a figure which contrasts sharply with the RSPB’s most recent statistic of 9,000.
Considering the fact that each pair typically rears four or five offspring each year, the real number of cormorants permanently in the UK could be over 100,000 – and these are only the colonies that can be seen by the human eye.
EFTTA’s chief executive officer, Jean-Claude Bel, is shocked by the figures.
“It is quite horrific. We are concerned for the livelihoods of the 60,000 people employed in the European fishing tackle trade. This is not just to do with fishing – it’s about stopping an environmental disaster. Cormorant breeding has to be more tightly controlled. Doing nothing is not an option.”
Dr Kohl’s findings were also shown to the EU Fisheries Committee last week, and it is hoped that they will add fresh impetus to the call for a pan-European management plan to be created when the European Parliament meets over the issue in November.
The call is being driven by EU Fisheries Committee member and German MEP, Dr Heinz Kindermann, as well as EAA secretary general Jan Kappel.
“We now have some strong data, from highly-regarded experts like Dr Kohl. And there is support for a management plan from Dr Kindermann. If we don’t get agreement for a plan this time, I doubt we ever will,” said Mr Kappel.
However, one group which plans to campaign against the management plan is BirdLife International, a global partnership which counts the RSPB among its members.
In May 2008 a spokesman said: “There is insufficient evidence that the declines of fish stocks and economic problems in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors are linked to the size of the European cormorant population. Other factors have to be looked at, like water quality, habitat changes and economic developments in the sector.”