Government urged to bring in new laws on otter action

The Angling Trust has this week taken the fight over otter predation to the Government, insisting that regulations are introduced to allow the predators to be properly ‘managed’.

As the sport continues to feel the full force of the species’ unrelenting advance across fisheries nationwide, Trust chairman Mike Heylin has told the Environment Agency and Natural England that the time has come for action.

The call comes just two weeks after Angling Times reported how fish farmers such as Mark Simmonds have had their businesses destroyed by otters over the past year.

“I’ve written to the EA, National Trust and Defra telling them that somebody in Government needs to wake up and smell the coffee. The situation is getting ever more serious,” said Mike.

“A managed environment needs just that ¬ management ¬ not loose regulation and poor legislation backed up by woolly-headed thinking. There is no provision from Government to protect commercial enterprises, such as fish farms and fisheries, which were in existence long before Tony Blair’s promise to re-establish otters.

“I’ve said to the authorities that if the regulations do not allow or the control of otters, then they need to start getting those regulations changed. These are taxpayers being directly hurt at a commercial level by Government policy.”

Mike was also keen to stress the need for fishery owners to do their bit by putting pressure on the Government itself.

“It’s simple ¬ countryside managers need to apply for permission to control the problems on their land. Fishery bosses must apply for a licence to trap and remove otters where they are causing a problem. I urge them to do so as soon as possible.”

The Trust’s stance has been welcomed by many within the sport, not least Angling Times columnist and Trust Advisory Team member, Martin Bowler. He said: “I’m pleased to see that the Trust is finally taking anglers’ concerns seriously on this issue. We desperately need some form of management of otters because they are having a catastrophic effect on fish populations. To reintroduce an apex predator without any prior environmental impact assessment is plainly irresponsible on the EA’s behalf. How did they think such a scenario could be avoided?”

Southern big-fish angler Tim Norman, chairman of the Trust’s Advisory Panel, also greeted the news.

“If we had managed to unite properly and tackle cormorants head-on, then I’m sure that the otter problem wouldn’t have been half as bad because there would be fish coming through to replace those eaten by the otters. In 10 or 15 years’ time we may see a new threat emerge. If we do, the Trust needs to stand up and be counted from the very start.”