Let's beat the Severn ban

Angling Times is this week issuing a rallying call for anglers in the Midlands to come out in force to help save the fishing at one of our most popular free river stretches.

The plea comes after it was revealed that the local council is planning to introduce a ‘fishing free zone’ in Bewdley town centre on the River Severn in response to complaints received from a local swan rescue centre that birds are dying because of high lead levels in the water caused by fishermen.

The woman behind the campaign, Jan Harrigan, who runs the Wychbold Swan Rescue Centre, near Droitwich in Worcs, said: “I’ve asked for a fishing free zone in Bewdley for a couple of years to see if it makes a difference. We pulled 60 swans off the Severn in Bewdley with lead poisoning last year. I’m not saying that anglers are definitely to blame, but I am sure of my facts about the lead levels found in the swans – can anglers be sure that they are NOT to blame?”

“When lead shot was banned more than 20 years ago there was an immediate improvement in the problem. I believe that things started to go downhill when the stretch began to be frequented by pole anglers using ‘dust shot’.”

Mrs Harrigan’s demands seem to have received the backing of Wyre Forest District Council, which runs the fishing at Bewdley.

Andrew Dickins, head of operational services, said: “We are considering the introduction of a fishing free zone in Bewdley due to concerns over the welfare of swans caused by the unlawful use of lead weights. Discussions are at an early stage, and a decision is expected within the next two months.”

Claims that anglers are to blame for the apparent high levels of lead in the swans have been dismissed out of hand by AT columnist and Bewdley resident Des Taylor, who is spearheading the campaign to get the ban dropped.

“Some 99 per cent of anglers on the stretch use swimfeeders or larger leads and pellets. However, massive amounts of lead enter the river via the shooters up and downstream of Bewdley. I have fishing friends who put up umbrellas to stop the shot raining down on them,” said Des.

“Added to that, there are an unnatural number of swans on the stretch. There should be two or three pairs along there, not the 90 or so swans that are in permanent residence. These birds are fed a constant diet of cake and chips and are pests.

“As usual, anglers are getting the thin end of the wedge. This is why I’m issuing a rallying cry to anglers to converge on the old bridge at Bewdley on Sunday,  June 22 at 11am for a day’s fishing. We need to show that we won’t be treated like this – we’ve had enough of being trampled over and we won’t take any more.”