'Cormorants don't harm fish stocks'

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has sparked outrage among anglers after claiming that cormorants aren’t damaging fish stocks.

The revelation was contained in a letter to David Kidney MP who had corresponded with the Society following concerns about RSPB policies from anglers in his Stafford constituency.

The letter also stated:

- There is no biological reason for the current licensing system 
- Research assessing the bird’s numbers is flawed
- The public would turn against angling if more birds were culled

The Society’s statements met with ridicule from the sport, with many suggesting the organisation was trying to pull the wool over the eyes of politicians and the public.
And TV legend John Wilson, who recently claimed in Angling Times that the birds eat 46 million roach a year, was the first in line to defend anglers and fisheries, condemning the claims outright.

“This is the same old nonsense that the RSPB has been peddling for years,” said John.
“The Society is a law unto itself. How can it claim the opposite of what anglers can see happening in front of their eyes? We know what damage cormorants do, we always have, but your average twitcher hasn’t got a clue about what’s really happening in the countryside.

“The problem with this country is that all wildlife is ridiculously protected, all except for fish. Why is it that a beautiful 30lb carp that has grown from a fingerling for 25 years is worth less than a two-year-old otter or a cormorant? It’s insane,” he added.

According to the RSPB’s own figures there are currently 9,000 pairs of nesting cormorants in the UK and each birds eats 1lb 8oz of fish every day, numbers which John argues translate into an unsustainable amount of coarse fish.

But the Society says that, while it has had to accept the current licensing system where fisheries can apply for a permission to shoot a limited number of the birds each year, it is currently researching other non-lethal methods of deterring them and protecting fish stocks.

“While we’ve had to accept the limited controls, we definitely remain opposed to any kind of wider cull and believe most anglers would be too. As for John Wilson’s argument, it’s unrealistic. These are sea birds and they eat sea fish and salmonids as well as coarse fish. If they were eating the numbers of roach John claims then there simply wouldn’t be any left anywhere,” claimed an RSPB spokesperson.