Fishing legend John Wilson has rounded on the Environment Agency and Natural England this week, accusing them of riding roughshod over the nation’s anglers on the issue of otters.
The TV star was left fuming after the two organisations announced limited support for the hardest-hit fisheries during a long-awaited meeting with the Angling Trust.
Although the EA promised £100,000 in fencing grants, as well as a ‘scoping study’ to assess the otters’ impact on stocks, the announcement has been condemned as ‘too little, too late.‘
“Anglers are the guardians of the aquatic world and I am outraged that, once again, we have been treated like second-class citizens,” seethed John. His anger is reflected by fisheries’ interests nationwide, following 10 years of largely unsuccessful campaigning to get the authorities to act.
“The EA is trying to decide what research would be of help determining the impact of otters on fisheries but you can’t help thinking it’s all just too little, too late,” said Chris Burt, a specimen angler who has worked tirelessly for a decade to get vulnerable fisheries properly protected against otters.
John Everard, a member of the Angling Trust who attended the meeting, is another who feels that progress on tackling the otter issue has been agonisingly slow. He believes the impact of the species is set to become increasingly costly for the sport.
“Otters are a chronic problem for fisheries and I don’t believe things will ever balance out. I first saw them on the upper Thames nine years ago and since then I’ve never caught a barbel from the stretch. The EA’s Graham Scholey assured me at the time that otters would never eat big barbel. It just shows that they didn’t have a clue what they were saying then, and still don’t. Our fish don’t stand a chance,” he said.
Meanwhile, predation continues unchecked, as proved by a stark admission by Mark Simmonds ¬ perhaps the UK’s best-known supplier of specimen carp ¬ that he expects otters will put him out of business.
“I’ve lost three of my 10 sites because I can’t protect them. Over the past three years I’ve lost around £100,000 worth of carp to otters. I put 100 14lb carp into a Dorchester estate lake this April and by October there were only seven mutilated fish left alive and the banks were littered with half-eaten carcasses.
“I’m predicting the otter population could triple over the next decade. They’re the biggest threat to carp fishing this country has ever faced. Specimen angling is finished,” said Mark.