Environment Agency to finally investigate impact of otters on our waterways

The Environment Agency and Natural England could finally be taking anglers’ concerns over otter predation of fisheries seriously.

That was the cautiously optimistic conclusion delivered by the Angling Trust after a meeting between bosses from the three bodies last week, where it was agreed that scientific data from a number of rivers would be analysed to gauge the predators’ impact.

Mike Heylin, chairman of the Trust, admitted he went into the meeting expecting to face the same opposition he had encountered in previous gatherings, only to be pleasantly surprised.

“I thought it would be another table-thumping exercise, with them continuing to deny there was a problem, but I emerged with a sense of  co-operation for the first time. Helped by the input of our members, we earmarked a cross section of rivers which we thought were indicative of the problems associated with otters,” said Mike.

“The EA agreed to see what data is available on these rivers, which cover four or five areas, regarding fish stocks, before and after otters were reintroduced. In three months we’ll meet again to see what data is available data which will stand up to scrutiny. I know a lot of anglers will be frustrated by the time this is taking, but we won’t change the legal position on otters or be able to manage their numbers without such time-consuming processes,” said Mike.

A spokesperson for the EA admitted the meeting represented a step in the right direction, saying: “The Otters and Fisheries Group discussed the work that needs to be done to understand the potential impact of the reintroduction of otters on river fisheries. This will be achieved by examining data sets from rivers suggested by the Angling Trust and its members together with rivers where otters have recently returned, or always been present without causing problems.”

Dorset big-fish ace Tim Norman has witnessed otter predation first hand on his beloved Stour and Hants Avon. Despite the apparent progress being made, he remains frustrated at the length of time it has taken to address the issue.

“I suppose it has to be good news that the EA is finally willing to investigate the problem, but in my opinion, it’s too little, too late ¬ it’s a case of shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted,” said Tim.