Laser beams on fisheries could see the end of cormorant attacks

Could laser beams enclosing lakes like an alarm system be the answer to the problem of cormorant predation on inland fisheries?

Two Essex waters are testing the lasers in order to prevent the birds from landing and are looking to develop it to help other fishery owners fight ‘the black death’.

Colin Bartlett, from Lake John in Waltham Abbey, is the brains behind the radical deterrent, which is also set to be trialled at Redbridge Lakes in Woodford Green.

Colin had never had serious problems with the birds until he went on holiday and came back to find 22 of them camped on the venue.

“The first time I tried this not one of the birds would come down. The lasers go across the lake, not directly upwards into their eyes, so I think they view it as a network of wires or something dangerous to avoid.

“Cormorants seem to be getting up earlier and earlier in the day and I’m now watching them fly over in the dark for the first time in 20 years, which is why I hope this will prove effective. I’ll make sure my lasers do not exceed the Class 2 which Health and Safety insists on and I’ll have to place them low so they don’t affect anybody’s eyes,” said Colin.

He stresses that the method is very much in its early stages and with him and visiting anglers around full time to scare the birds, it will be next winter before he can say conclusively if it works.

The news comes just a week after the RSPB denied that cormorants were affecting UK fish stocks in a letter to David Kidney MP. It also disputed the reasons for the culling licensing system, current research on bird numbers and John Wilson’s figure of 46 million roach eaten a year by them.

Martin Salter, who has just stepped down from his post as Labour’s parliamentary spokesperson for angling, said that the RSPB lost its argument over cormorants years ago.

“Cormorants don’t eat fresh air, they eat fish, and there are hundreds of examples the length and breadth of the country where this primarily sea-going bird has devastated freshwater silverfish stocks.