Keith Arthur: We need more than just fences

Is it me or am I out of step NOT celebrating the ‘grant’ the EA may be making to assist in fencing out otters? It has invited the otter back into our environment; it is assisting its growth by improving otter habitat; it even has an otter action plan. Now to offer us 0.4 per cent of what we pay it back is removing the Michael slightly.

I know it is responsible for the environment, but if the EA had been MORE responsible when it mattered, perhaps by backing us, its best customers, in the battle against cormorants, or by not granting licences to abstract and pollute our rivers, then the ‘otter situation’ would never have developed in the first place.

I have said many times that I don’t know the cure – or maybe I do and find it unpalatable but possibly necessary. If we want to protect our sport for the future, it must involve more than fencing artificial waters; it must be more than hoping we have another decent year class of chub, barbel and bream.

What MUST happen is a distinct assault on alien predators. We need to pay for someone to research ways of eliminating signal crayfish and mitten crabs; we must fund means of removing cormorants from our inland waters where they don’t belong, and never have belonged. Maybe we can get a strong case to protect the eel and, as they have in Ireland and other countries, ban commercial eel fishing outright.

Once we have sufficient fish, not for us but for the rivers themselves, we may be able to live in peace with what used to be a natural predator.

What could happen is that otters die of starvation – and that will rest squarely on the shoulders of those who brought them back and others, such as the EA, which was complicit in that action.