One of the country’s most successful suppliers of grown-on carp, Mark Simmonds, is calling for an otter cull after they wiped out his fish farm.
Adding weight to predictions that otters are sending big-fish angling into terminal decline, Mark revealed last week that £30,000-worth of his carp have been eaten by otters.
Of the 122 fish recently stocked into the site, near Romsey in Hampshire, only 17 have survived, with the other 105 either dead or missing.
And the devastation is not an isolated incident for the 54-year-old, it’s actually the third of Mark’s growing-on facilities that has been wiped out by otters over the last six years.
“Otters have got to be culled, it’s the only answer,” said Mark, who has been fish farming for 35 years.
“This species is completely ruining me. Before otters started destroying my stock ponds, I was one of the largest producers of British carp in the country but I’ve lost £10,000 of carp in the past three years alone. If something isn’t done, then I’ll be put out of business within 10 years by otters invading my stock ponds, and specimen fishing in this country will be finished,” said Mark.
He believes that otters have taken to predating on farmed and stocked carp because there aren’t enough natural fish stocks to support them.
He’s also laying the blame for his plight firmly at the door of the EA which reiterated once again that there is a national fund to assist fisheries with the problem, before stressing that it is an offence to injure, kill or take an otter.
However, the fund is earmarked for helping protect the most vulnerable and public fisheries. At the moment there is no support available to fish farmers and carp syndicates.
“I’m fully aware of the laws protecting otters, they were introduced when the species was considered to be at risk. But conservation efforts have broadly succeeded in helping otters recover their natural numbers and range. If they’re no longer endangered, why are they so heavily protected? Why are there no management options to protect businesses, carp syndicates, club waters and rivers?” asked Mark.
Unfortunately, Mark’s plight is no surprise to former Specialist Anglers’ Alliance campaigner Chris Burt who first flagged up the threat otters could pose to angling no less than 12 years ago.
“Without substantial Government funding, more and more fisheries are set to be devastated. Angling is stuck in an impossible situation within the current laws. It’s accepted that other species, such as red deer, need managing in order to protect businesses and the wider environment. It was only a matter of time before fisheries’ interests began asking similar questions regarding otters,” said Chris.