Environment Agency to fund otter fences at worst hit venues

Angling Times can exclusively reveal that the Environment Agency has agreed to help fund the construction of otter-proof fencing around the most vulnerable and hardest-hit stillwater fisheries.

Details of how much money is available, which fisheries qualify and how they can apply are yet to be finalised, but Angling Times’ sources say funding is possible because of of this season’s bumper increase in rod licence sales (up 20 per cent on this time last season).

While the news has been enthusiastically welcomed by anglers, clubs and fishery owners, the announcement of support has come too late for some whose venues have already been wiped out.

It is also represents yet another financial burden on rod-licence revenue, much of which is already spent each year on restocking fisheries hit by pollution or cormorant predation.

“We’d welcome any funding options. However, it’s too late for us – we have no fish left to protect,” said Mark Casto, secretary of Bungay Cherry Tree AC in Norfolk.

“The fencing issue isn’t cut and dried, it’s a lot more complicated. Will the landowner allow a club to erect a fence? Should rod- licence revenue be used in this manner instead of investing in participation projects and other important areas?” he asked.

One club that has already received financial help from the EA to combat otter predation is Windermere, Ambleside and District AA, which leases 23 fisheries across Cumbria where the otter population has exploded over the last decade.

The club was forced to give up one water, Holehird Tarn, this year after otters ate almost all the resident tench and carp. Since 2006 the club has fenced two of its other stillwaters at a cost of £15,000, of which the EA paid £9,000.

“We’ve found that if the carp go, the fishery goes,” explained WADAA manager Neil Birkinshaw.

“We have constructed two otter-proof fences and to date both are working. We are indebted to the Environment Agency which provided great support, advice and financial assistance. Without its help it would have been a struggle,” added Neil.

While both the EA and the Angling Trust were unwilling to comment until all the details have been hammered out, fisheries scientist Dr Bruno Broughton felt that it is a positive step.

“It’s welcome news that there will now be financial support to help fence those fisheries experiencing serious problems with otter predation,” he said.